Quality restaurant servers play a large part in keeping a restaurant running like a well-oiled machine. These front-of-house professionals act as the face of the restaurant, interacting with guests throughout the dining experience. In fact, an analysis of over 331,920 online reviews of 1,300-plus restaurant locations, the most frequently mentioned keyword was “service.”
Whether you are looking for a role as a server or are looking for quality servers to enhance the dining experience, the server interview questions below will help you prepare for the interview process ahead. These restaurant server interview questions and answers are meant to reveal which candidates will excel in this multidimensional role.
10 Restaurant Server Interview Questions
Because servers directly influence the dining experience, it’s crucial to find the best-suited candidates. If your team is not taking advantage of modern hiring solutions, the process can feel long and drawn out.
Compiling a list of restaurant server interview questions ahead of time ensures that the interview is productive and focused. That’s why we’ve compiled this mix of behavioral and competency-based server interview questions. Get familiar with the server interview questions below, so you’re ready when the time comes.
1. What do you know about [insert name of restaurant]?
For the interviewer: Discover what the applicant sees in your restaurant and the motivation behind applying. This question is one that an individual can’t glide over with a cookie-cutter response.
If the candidate can’t come up with any specific details about your restaurant, it’s clear that they did not do any research. This lack of care may translate into how they carry out tasks. On the other hand, a thoughtful answer displays effort and the individual’s commitment to learning about the restaurant.
For the interviewee: There’s a reason this is first on our list of server interview questions and answers. You should research the specific restaurant you are applying to before sitting down for an interview. In your answer, include specific details about the company’s core values and how those connect with you.
“I am passionate about healthy eating. Your restaurant’s commitment to using wholesome and organic ingredients really resonates with me. I would be proud to serve this food to customers.”
You can also discuss the charitable organizations the restaurant supports, initiatives they have that appeal to you and other specific details that display your knowledge and interest in the role. In short, make it clear that you view the restaurant as unique and not one in a sea of others that you are applying to.
2. Imagine it is a busy night, and a coworker is struggling to keep up with their tables. What do you do?
For the interviewer: Paint a picture of the candidate’s environment, rather than asking, “How do you handle a fast-paced or stressful environment?” This will help you to gauge whether the candidate is a good fit for the high-speed restaurant setting. Can they deal with the overlapping demands that the position requires? You can also test this in real-time with a practice shift after the interview process is over.
For the interviewee: Expect a few situational questions like this one during your interview. The best way to answer this question is to draw from past experiences. What did you do in high-speed work environments in the past? Keep your response focused on the actions you would take rather than feelings you might have.
3. What do you believe are the most important qualities a person needs to succeed in this role?
For the interviewer: This question allows you to see the job from the candidate’s perspective. If they have a clear understanding of what the role entails, it will show in the answer. With this question, you can understand what the applicant believes is at the core of this role and see if they read your restaurant server job description.
If the candidate offers short, one-word responses, press them for the reasoning behind each answer. Ask a follow-up question, such as, “Why do you believe these qualities are central to success?”
For the interviewee: You don’t have to list every quality that you believe would be helpful to have. Instead, focus on a few that were mentioned in the job description when you first applied. Aligning your answer with the original job description will demonstrate your understanding of the role’s requirements. Make sure that your answers are traits and qualities that you have and are improving upon. That way, you can portray yourself as the applicant that possesses the necessary qualities for success.
4. Tell me about your previous role at a [insert restaurant]. What did you like and dislike about it?
For the interviewer: Dive into the applicant’s resume to learn more about their previous experience and responsibilities. This research will reveal what areas they are well-versed in and gaps in their skillset that need to be addressed during training.
Learning what a candidate liked about their past role can help determine if they would mesh well with your restaurant’s culture. Asking about dislikes allows you to get a glimpse of the applicant’s character. Do they respond professionally or decide to badmouth past employers? Take note of this.
For the interviewee: This made it on the list restaurant server interview questions and answers because some version of it will likely pop up in your interview. Prepare by coming up with a quick summary of your work experience. Cover your main day-to-day responsibilities, highlight your skills (serving large parties, recommending wine and food pairings, etc.) and discuss the growth you experienced in the role.
Take the answer below and make it your own.
“I enjoyed the staff’s camaraderie in my past role and the ways I was able to improve my [communication/serving/multitasking] skills. However, there was limited ability for upward growth, so I felt that it was time to switch into a role that allows me to continue to learn and grow.”
5. What is your schedule like? Are you able to work night/weekend/holiday shifts?
For the interviewer: Dealing with staffing challenges is one of the most common issues for restaurant managers. Thanks to on-demand staffing solutions, the ability to fill shifts quickly with professionals is easier than ever. But building a reliable staff is no walk in the park. This question helps you determine what you can expect from the candidate in terms of time commitment.
For the interviewee: Display your willingness to work and be an asset to the team. Restaurants often deal with staffing challenges that lead to open shifts and stressed managers. Communicate your ability to be a team player, but be honest about other commitments. If you want a truly flexible schedule, consider taking control of your hours with an on-demand solution.
6. Describe a time when you made a mistake while serving. How did you handle it? How will you prevent that from happening again?
For the interviewer: There is much to learn by asking a candidate these questions. First, it is a great way to assess the candidate’s ability to take responsibility for their actions. It also displays the way they handle awkward and tense situations. Lastly, you can see how the candidate views past mistakes. Do they learn from past failures and see them as opportunities for growth? Or do they sweep them under the rug and blame circumstances or others for the blunder?
For the interviewee: Your future employer does not expect round the clock perfection. However, they do expect professionals who strive to create the best possible experience and own up to mistakes when they do happen. Don’t try to come off as perfect and avoid naming a time you dropped the ball. Instead, discuss the mistake and focus on the plan of action you took to remedy the situation. Pick a mistake that taught you a valuable lesson and discuss how you have applied that lesson moving forward.
7. What led you to apply for this role?
For the interviewer: Many server interview questions and answers focus on qualifications and experience. While these are important, they do not paint a full picture of the candidate. Understanding their motivations helps determine how they would fit in the role. It also helps to root out applicants who are not committed to the role and view this job as no different than others they are applying for.
For the interviewee: You likely have many reasons why you applied for this job. Perhaps the location is convenient, the pay is competitive or you would like to use this experience as a stepping stone to another job. While these are all legitimate reasons for applying, they all focus on what’s in it for you and not for the employer. Your answer should be a genuine one that includes a benefit for you and the restaurant you’re applying to.
“I was drawn to [insert restaurant] because I’ve heard great things about the company culture and the opportunities employees have to build their skillsets. A company that invests in its employees is one that I would love to be a part of, and that drew me to the role.”
Having an employee that wants to grow and learn more is a win for the restaurant, and the development program is a win for you.
8. How would you deal with an angry customer who has an issue with their meal?
For the interviewer: This is another behavioral question that puts the candidate on the spot and examines their problem-solving skills. It is a great opportunity to learn how they will respond to negative, time-sensitive situations. Take note of the candidate’s body language and tone of voice. Do they become flustered when answering this question or remain composed?
For the interviewee: If you have experience as a restaurant server, share an example of how you defused a tense situation like the one described above. If you can’t think of a specific instance, stick to the steps you would take. Discuss how you would make sure the customer felt heard and understood. Then, talk about the steps you would take to resolve the situation. Lastly, touch on how you would end the interaction to leave the customer feeling like their concern was taken care of.
9. Give an example of a time when you worked on a team. What was your role and the result?
For the interviewer: You can train a new server on the specific protocols of your restaurant. But you can’t teach them to mesh with the company culture. Team players that get along and support each other make for an easy dynamic that translates into the guest experience. This question allows the applicant to explain how they operate on a team and what skills they bring to the table.
For the interviewee: Share a specific example that highlights the value you bring to a team. You can utilize the STAR format to organize your thoughts. STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. Start by laying out the overarching goal in this instance. Then, describe your role in the efforts toward reaching the goal. Next, you’ll share the actions you took to complete the task at hand. Finally, close with the result, including details about who benefited and how it was a success.
10. How have you gone above and beyond for a guest? What was the result?
For the interviewer: Service is at the heart of this job. Uncover what great customer service means to the applicant by asking about a time they delighted a customer. This helps you find out if the employee knows what going the extra mile looks like. You can also ask the applicant to define customer service to get a deeper understanding of how they view their role as a server.
For the interviewee: Emphasize your commitment to providing each guest with a quality experience. Then, dive into a specific example of a time when you made someone’s day with your service. If you can, connect this example to one of your key skills or a core value of the restaurant you are interested in. Share how the action impacted the customer and mention if the customer returned after the exchange.
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