9 Interview Questions For Waitstaff & Bartenders

Jessica Elliott

Jessica couples her 24 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience with meticulous research to deliver insight into technology, operations, and marketing topics. Her optimized copy helps companies engage their audience while strengthening their communication with clients, employees, and management.

A great interview provides a way for restaurant owners and managers to gauge an applicant’s skills and character and overall suitability for a waitstaff or bartender position. 

According to HelpScout, “The best interviews are not strict question-and-answer patterns; they’re structured conversations that draw out candidates’ attitudes, strengths, and challenges.” 

To get the most out of your interview, choose a list of questions that engage the applicant while providing insight into their skills. 

Interview for a waitstaff position

Types of interview questions

Personalize your questions to the restaurant position while also inquiring about the applicant’s work history. Interview questions typically fall into a few different categories, including:

  • Behavioral and emotional intelligence
  • Communication skills
  • Approach to customer service
  • Problem-solving
  • Work ethics

Before interviewing, it’s essential to review the types of questions that are illegal. For example, you cannot legally inquire about an applicant’s:

  • marital status
  • children
  • race
  • religion
  • disabilities, or
  • sexual orientation

Choose questions that assess waitstaff and bartender skills

Open-ended questions that ask for situation-specific knowledge provide a way for you to see how the applicant functions in a customer service environment. You want to get a banter going that gives you an idea of how the applicant tolerates various conditions and problems that arise in a restaurant. Tailor your interviews to fit the specific restaurant positions and include a mix of questions that measure multiple skills. 

Types of soft and hard skills that you’re looking for include:

  • Customer service  
  • Attentiveness
  • Stress handling 
  • Conflict management
  • Rule compliance
  • People reading 
  • Position knowledge 
  • Multitasking
  • Money handling

Questions to ask when you interview waitstaff and bartenders

For each of these questions, look for answers based on real-life experience. If your applicant hasn’t experienced a situation before, then ask them how they will respond if they come across this issue at your restaurant. 

  1. What does your schedule look like? Are you comfortable working nights and weekends? What about the holidays?
  2. Do you have an alcohol certification, or are you willing to get it?
  3. Have you dined here with friends or family before? What was your favorite item from the menu?
  4. Tell me about a time that you had a conflict with a customer or teammate and how you handled it. 
  5. Have you ever come across a potential underage guest with a fake ID? If so, what did you do? 
  6. Has there been a time where a customer asked you if you liked a dish and you hated the dish? How did you respond?
  7. How do you make an Old Fashioned or how do you greet a new table? 
  8. What’s your favorite part about working in customer service? 
  9. What were your sales on your busiest shift? How much do you expect to make per shift? 

Our gig economy and tight labor market can make it tough to find applicants. However, it’s important to not waste money on hiring the wrong people. Instead, restaurant operators increasingly focus on finding employees who will grow with their company. 

According to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Restaurant Industry report, “four in 10 table service restaurant job openings in 2018 were filled by either new entrants to the workforce or people promoted from other positions within the same restaurant.” Focus on customized interview questions that engage the applicant while providing you with insight into how they’ll handle a fast-paced restaurant environment. 

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