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Are you interviewing — or will you be interviewing — for a position at a restaurant? Depending upon the venue and the number of other applicants, preparing properly for an interview is an important part of getting the job.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of 14 potential restaurant interview questions, so you can have a better idea of what to expect going into your interview. We’ll also cover why they’re asking, what they’re looking for in your answer, and how to answer. We’ll also provide some strong sample answers, so you can get a feel for the types of responses that might give you an edge over other applicants vying for the role!

Common Restaurant Interview Questions and Answers

1. Tell me about yourself

Why they’re asking

This question gives you the opportunity to talk about your past work experience, environments you’ve thrived in previously, etc. Refrain from going overboard on your life story — you can include a few fun facts about yourself, if they sound professional or impressive and will stand out in your interviewer’s mind — but limit your response to training, work-related, or education-related information. Relevance is important, here.

What they’re looking for

While this question can feel awkward to answer, try to respond as comfortably as possible. The goal is to be friendly and personable, because any job in the restaurant industry requires some level of comfort conversing with strangers. If you’re not comfortable answering a simple question about yourself, your interviewer may assume you won’t be comfortable having conversations with guests.

How to answer

Let your personality shine through, even if you’re only talking about your work experience here! Try to bring up work, or work-related events, that have previously made you excited, happy, or motivated, and that natural enthusiasm will shine through in your response. Remember, your answer should largely be focused on your work and education background.

Example Answer

I am a highly-motivated and diligent worker who thrives in environments that present new and exciting challenges. I excel in multitasking, people skills, and fast-paced work. While this would be my first restaurant post, my past experience in retail has helped me understand that I am well-suited for similar roles where I can help people have great experiences at any establishment.

job interview man and woman

2. Why do you want to work in the restaurant industry?

Why they’re asking

Some interviewees don’t have a very good handle on the fact that they don’t excel in people-oriented roles, so the way you respond to this question may either help solidify your status as a strong candidate or dismantle it.

What they’re looking for

You don’t have to go overboard and state that you’ve “always wanted to work in a restaurant” if this hasn’t been the case, but ideally, you should be able to confidently state that you enjoy meeting new people and accommodating customers, and prefer fast-paced work over long drags/lulls. This will ensure the interviewer that you’re cut out for the role.

How to answer

Be authentic and honest about your response! It should feel natural for you to state that you love being around people, and that you thrive in environments that require you to multitask (both of these are key answers). If these don’t sound like appealing job characteristics to you, you should reconsider applying for a restaurant job.

Additionally, if you’ve worked in the restaurant industry before, this is something you’ll definitely want to bring up when this question is posed. The fact that you have prior experience means your answer will carry that much more weight.

Example Answer

Having worked at [Ruby Tuesday’s] as a waitress for a year, I learned that my personality lends itself extremely well to collaborative and guest-focused industries, such as the restaurant industry. I enjoy working with a team in a fast-paced environment, and find it stimulating and rewarding to work toward customer satisfaction.

3. Do you have any prior experience in the restaurant industry?

Why they’re asking

No matter what type of job you apply for, this question is pretty standard in the workforce. Interviewers like to know (or at least have an understanding) of whether you’ll know what you’re doing if you’re extended the position! Additionally, interviewers are trying to determine how much training you’ll need before you start in this role.

What they’re looking for

It’s pretty obvious that the ideal answer here is, “Yes! I do have experience!” However, if that’s not the case, there’s a way to phrase your answer to keep the odds in your favor.

How to answer

If you don’t have any prior experience in the industry, don’t beat around the bush — state this up front, but segue into related experience that you do have. If you’ve worked in retail, including but not limited to boutiques, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc., you know something about customer satisfaction, running an establishment, and taking care of business property. Use this to formulate a strong answer, even if you’ve never specifically worked in a restaurant before.

Example Answer

This would be my first restaurant position; however, my past experience in retail has made me well-equipped to handle many of the same goals and challenges of the restaurant industry, such as top-notch service, high efficiency, and optimal customer satisfaction.

Cashier of a restaurant

4. What are your strengths?

Why they’re asking

No one can answer what your strengths are better than you can! Prior to hiring, it’s only natural that your manager will want to know how they can leverage your strengths to optimize business operations in their establishment.

What they’re looking for

Time to brag! Of course, don’t be arrogant about it, but there’s a way to highlight your achievements and natural qualities in a way that still lends itself to humility. Confidence and enthusiasm are key, here.

How to answer

Name three or four of your favorite traits that are most conducive to the restaurant industry (or to the specific position you’re applying for). You may be “kind, considerate, and caring,” but if you’re also “a go-getter, naturally communicative, and outgoing,” these may do the trick moreso than the former three adjectives.

You may also consider framing some of your best personality traits as professional strengths. For example, if you love to learn, you can state that you have a “commitment to professional development.” It’s all about how you word things!

Example Answer

I’ve always been a quick learner, a strong team player, and able to work through problems to meet the necessary objectives.

5. What are your weaknesses?

Why they’re asking

This question frequently feels like a trick question, but think of it as an opportunity to inform your prospective employer about your personality, and what does and doesn’t work for you in the workplace. Ultimately, if your interviewer asks you this question, it’ll be to determine whether your natural disposition lends itself to the industry, and to the establishment.

What they’re looking for

Anyone who works at a restaurant is typically hired because of their strong people skills, in addition to their work ethic and past experience. Thus, if you answer that you’re “shy” or “soft-spoken,” your interviewer will probably get the sense that you won’t be a good fit for the job.

How to answer

Taking the above into account, consider some applicable strengths that can be easily disguised as weaknesses. For example, if you’re talkative (and know this will be a plus in your position), disguise it as, “I can get a bit too absorbed in conversations with guests sometimes!” Get the idea? While technically, your job won’t be to hang out and talk to the guests all day long, the interviewer won’t be able to help but think, “Oh — he/she will be a natural conversationalist with customers!”

Example Answer

A few weaknesses of mine are that I tend to care too much about my work, to the point of being a bit of a perfectionist. I also have a tendency to overwork myself, because I’m very dedicated to the work I take on and often put it above other priorities in my life.

6. What hours are you available to work?

Why they’re asking

The restaurant wants to know your availability and how flexible you are,

What they’re looking for

The restaurants wants to know exactly what days and hours you are available to make sure they can cover all their available shifts.

How to answer

Be honest. If you’re only available to work during morning hours, and the restaurant only has night shifts available then this will not be a good fit for you. However, you should mention that you are flexible (within reason) when you tell them your availability so they know you can work some current available shifts.

Example Answer

I’m available to work Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 AM – 7 PM. I am flexible on the end time on the weekends, and willing to make additional hours work with my schedule. 

7. Why our restaurant?

Why they’re asking

There’s a lot of restaurant competition out there, and if you’re applying to work at a specific establishment, the interviewer will be enthused to learn of your special commitment to their restaurant due to x, y, or z.

What they’re looking for

It would make the manager or interviewer’s day to know that you’re applying to work at Applebee’s (for instance) because their specific mission resonates with you, or because you love their food more than any other comparable restaurant’s. If you’re enthusiastic about a particular aspect of the restaurant, you’re more likely to be committed to the work you’ll do if hired.

How to answer

Do keep one or two characteristics on-hand of this particular restaurant that you love for this question. If you can show that you’ve paid attention to, or noticed, a specific characteristic of the establishment, you’ll probably stand out head and shoulders above other applicants.

Example Answer

I’ve eaten at [Applebee’s] many times in the past, and just love its family-oriented environment, ambience, and diverse menu selections!

8. Describe a time you had to deal with a difficult customer, co-worker, or person. How did you deal with that situation?

Why they’re asking

The restaurant industry is not a solitary one — much of your time, no matter what your position, will be spent either collaborating with or serving other people, some of whom may not be the nicest individuals. If your interviewer asks this question, they want to see how you’ve responded to (and how you’ve overcome) conflict in the past.

What they’re looking for

A prospective manager will be looking for an answer that reflects your personality — did you rise above the conflict, and manage any confrontation successfully? Are you going to trash-talk someone you don’t like? (Here’s a tip: don’t). Are you capable of getting along with others, even if you don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye? Your answer should touch on each of these in the best way possible.

How to answer

Ensure that your response includes conflict resolution (hopefully, you were the one who initiated it), references a successful dialogue between yourself and the person in question, and demonstrates that you are able to move past differences with others.

Example Answer

I was once in a situation where the person I was training was uncooperative, and refused to take correction. Rather than escalating the situation, I approached it first by communicating with the new employee, asking if they preferred a different means of training. I emphasized that I only wanted to help him succeed, not tell him what to do. This broke the ice, and we were able to move forward successfully afterward.

view of the bar and waiter

9. Have you dined at our restaurant before? What stood out to you?

Why they’re asking

Similar to the question “Why our restaurant?”, successfully answering this question is an indication that you know something about the restaurant to which you’re applying. It can also be a chance for you to sing the establishment’s praises if there’s something about it that you particularly love!

What they’re looking for

Your interviewer wants to see if you have specific knowledge of the restaurant. Are you familiar at all with any of the menu items? Does the decor match the theme of the restaurant? Is their service fantastic, or are the plates particularly colorful? Any little detail goes, here!

How to answer

Answer truthfully! Hopefully, you really do have some experience dining at the restaurant in question. If not, spend some time researching it so that you can answer this question satisfactorily, if it comes up.

Example Answer

I’ve always been attracted to the hospitality industry, it is my hope to go on to run or own a bed & breakfast in the future. I feel that this position will provide invaluable experience when it comes to making that dream a reality!

10. What are your career goals?

Why they’re asking

Millions of people make full-time careers out of their positions in the restaurant and catering industry, while others work part-time as a temporary solution to support themselves. Your interviewer probably just wants some perspective on where you see yourself progressing over the next year or two.

What they’re looking for

Despite what you may think, there’s really no right or wrong answer, here. Obviously, it sounds great to say, “Being a waitress is all I’ve ever wanted!” but such a response should by no means be required to land the job. Ultimately, your interviewer will want you to answer this question honestly — so be transparent about your future goals!

How to answer

You can either state that this position will hopefully be a valuable stepping stone to advancing to a managerial position in the hospitality industry, or you can respond that this will be a valuable learning experience as you put yourself through school on your way to becoming a doctor or an accountant. Both are perfectly good responses.

Example Answer

I’ve always been drawn to the fusion aspect of your menu, and I love the theme and overall aesthetic of the restaurant, and its brand!

11. When was the last time you went out of your way to go the extra mile for a guest?

Why they’re asking

As you’ve probably guessed, your interviewer wants an idea of how far you’re willing to go to accommodate guests, and what you’ve done in the past to really make their experience a great one.

What they’re looking for

An ideal answer would be one you don’t have to think about for several minutes — reference a time you had a positive interaction with a customer, or perhaps your most memorable one. This should fit the bill in terms of the response they’re hoping to hear.

How to answer

Include details about the customer’s response after you did something special for them to build up the moment that much more. Did they go on to tell your manager what a fantastic waiter/cashier/associate you are? What was your manager’s response? All of these elements will make the story really shine as you’re relaying it to your prospective employer.

Example Answer

Once, a customer was dissatisfied with the temperature at which the kitchen had cooked her burger, and blamed it on me despite the fact that I’d entered her requested temperature correctly. When I relayed the instance to my manager and suggested we give her the burger on the house, she was initially unwilling to do this, until I suggested that she could make up for the lost sale with my tip money to cover the price of the customer’s meal. Not only was my manager extremely happy with me, but the customer ended up having a positive experience, as well.

12. Do you work better with a team, or independently?

Why they’re asking

It’s not a crime if you prefer working independently; however, you need to be able to get along with others in a business such as hospitality, as you’ll likely be working with a whole team of people within the establishment.

What they’re looking for

Your interviewer is likely looking for an enthusiastic response, such as, “I prefer working with a team!” (By the way, this is technically the “right answer”). However, if this isn’t the most truthful response for you, there’s a way to phrase your answer so that you still come across as willing to collaborate with others.

How to answer

No matter which way you choose to answer, be sure to include in your response that you have no problem working with/getting along with other people in the workplace. This should preface whichever answer you choose.

Example Answer

I always appreciate input and collaboration with others, especially if they can help me do my job to the best of my ability! That said, I’d describe myself as more of an individualistic worker, and find I think better when I’m left to my own problem-solving skills.

13. Why are you well-suited for this position?

Why they’re asking

It takes a special personality to handle all of the demands of the restaurant industry, and while anyone can be trained to work in any field, your interviewer likely wants to know if you possess traits that make you a more natural candidate for the position.

What they’re looking for

A strong response would be one that paints you as an easily-relatable, personable, friendly, and charismatic individual. These characteristics usually make for an effective restaurant staff. Of course, some amount of previous experience in the industry is also preferable, and should be included as part of your answer, if applicable.

How to answer

As always, aim to be as truthful as possible, emphasizing the important (and relatable) points while downplaying the less-helpful components of your answer.

Example Answer

I’ve always enjoyed working in the restaurant industry, because my personality is very conducive to its demands. I tend to be very interested in other people and their stories, am a great listener, take direction well and also learn quickly. I’m naturally very approachable and friendly, and am laid-back enough to roll with the punches that an ever-shifting business, such as a restaurant, requires.

14. Why should we hire you?

Why they’re asking

And now, we’re down to the bottom line — it’s time to hit the nail on the head with your response! This is one of the most straightforward questions an interviewer can ask, and it’s for no other reason than the fact that they want your opinion about why you’d excel at the job straight from your lips.

What they’re looking for

Confidence, clarity, and authenticity. Be firm in your response, and mean what you say. Be sure to reiterate one or two of your strongest personality traits, or past experience, that makes you ideal for the position.

How to answer

Wrap up your interview, and nail this final question, by relaying a combination of applicable experience, outstanding characteristics, desire to work for the establishment, and any other appealing qualities, all in one neat package.

Example Answer

With two years of restaurant experience already, combined with my love for the hospitality industry and people-oriented personality, I’m a natural candidate for this position. I’m a fast learner and a hard worker, and I tackle challenges gracefully and effectively. I always strive for customer satisfaction as my top priority, which would make your restaurant that much stronger and further serve your goals, as well.

Hopefully, these questions (and suggestions) give you a great place to start as you prepare for your interview! When in doubt, simply answer honestly and be yourself.

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