When hiring a food Server, it is important to remember that their customer service can make or break a restaurant’s reputation. A high value is placed on restaurant industry candidates who are friendly, engaging, and eager to ensure a quality dining experience.
A Server’s presentation style and skill level should pair well with your restaurant’s branding and clientele. For example, a restaurant with a formal environment and high prices may look for servers who are more mature and experienced; a casual dining establishment may look for servers who are younger and new to the trade. In all circumstances, the right candidates should be eager to learn about menu offerings, handling order-taking accurately, resolving any complaints graciously, managing Microsoft or other operating systems, and being able to upsell or cross-sell as appropriate based on customer inquiries.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Server interview questions to help you get started:
1. What does it mean to provide excellent customer service to restaurant guests?
What you want to hear: A strong candidate will know that a restaurant’s reputation depends in large part on the table service. They should state with clarity that it’s the Server’s responsibility to provide excellent customer service by greeting guests with a smile, being able to engage in questions and answers about menu items and special offers, accurately taking orders, responding to any customer complaints, and generally being attentive throughout the meal.
2. How would you contribute to the success of the restaurant team?
What you want to hear: An experienced Server recognizes that running the best restaurant possible is a team effort. The greatest strength of the establishment is the ability of servers, hosts, busboys, cooks, cashiers and others to all work together efficiently. Look for a candidate who can discuss the need to be a good team player and who understands that mistakes such as taking orders inaccurately, or not being attentive to a table, or ringing up an incorrect bill all affect smooth operations.
3. How will you handle a customer who is upset with their order?
What you want to hear: All Servers encounter angry customers at some point. Look for someone who will listen to the customer’s issues and offer reasonable solutions. Recooking the food, taking an item off their bill, or offering a coupon may resolve some of the customer’s frustration or anger. No matter what, the customer should leave feeling heard and respected.
Red flag: A Server who takes criticism personally or gets heated in the moment can ruin your restaurant’s reputation. Avoid a candidate who does not express the desire to do their best to fix any situation to the customer’s satisfaction.
4. Tell me about a time you had to deal with conflict with one of your co-workers.
What you want to hear: It is important that a candidate is focused on work at all times regardless of any personal issues that may arise with a co-worker. Listen for the candidate to tell you about how they resolved a conflict in a professional manner while never allowing the incident to affect quality customer service.
Red flag: A candidate who appears to constantly be in a difficult situation with one co-worker or another is a red flag. It’s highly likely you can expect more of the same when they arrive at your establishment.
5. As a restaurant customer, what are some things servers do that annoy you?
What you want to hear: Everyone has experienced servers who do annoying things. Your candidate should be able to discuss what they’ve encountered along the way, such as waiting a long time for menus after being seated, an unpleasant or indifferent attitude, lack of knowledge about the menu, getting the order wrong, or the like. Probe further to find out how the candidate ensures they don’t annoy their customers with the same or different behaviors when on their own shift.
6. What restaurant do you like the most and why?
What you want to hear: This unique question gives the candidate the opportunity to share what they know about the restaurant business. Their choice of establishment can give you insights into the environment they would like to be a part of and the type of customers they would like to serve. Determine if their choice matches up with your restaurant’s offerings and culture.
Red flag: A candidate who doesn’t take much interest in selecting a favorite restaurant, or doesn’t have any real insights into why they like a particular establishment, may simply not have much regard for the trade. That lack of interest can translate to subpar customer service.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Server position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Have a friendly personality and are excellent team players
- Learn quickly and multitask efficiently
- Understand how customer service affects a restaurant’s reputation
Need help writing a Server job description? Check out our Server job description template.
What do you enjoy most about being a Server?
Scheduling challenges arise from time to time. Are you willing to come in early, stay late, or occasionally work extra shifts to help us manage unexpected scheduling needs?
Servers stand for the duration of their shifts. What methods do you use to stay comfortable for extended periods of time?
What are your thoughts on the benefits or drawbacks of tip sharing?
Management styles will vary by restaurant. What qualities do you look for in a manager to help you maximize your performance?
What techniques do you use to assist multiple tables at once without sacrificing quality customer service?
If a customer leaves a small tip even though you provided quality customer service, how would you handle serving that same customer again?
What would you do if your car breaks down on your way to work?
Imagine that a customer tells you the music is too loud and the lighting too dark. How would you respond?
What do you consider to be a successful shift as a Server?