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Restaurant Manager Interview

25 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns
Updated July 21st, 2020 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Business    

Question 1 of 25

What makes an interviewee stand out, in your opinion?

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What makes an interviewee stand out, in your opinion?

The interviewer would like to know more about the aspects of an interviewee that impress you. You want to show a balance of being a sound decision maker, when it comes to hiring, without appearing to be a pushover or - the opposite - someone who is too difficult to please. List one unique thing you look for when interviewing. Make sure to express that you never go off of 'just a hunch' but instead, you look for specific qualities in an incumbent.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"To me, a stand out interviewee is someone who has fully researched the background of the restaurant, our menu, and the workplace culture. If they come prepared for the interview, they are showing me that they are engaged in the process and excited about the opportunity."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"If you are new to hiring, here are some items to look for when vetting new employees:

- Existing knowledge of the business, or company's vision
- Strong references
- Strong tenure in previous roles
- Positive language use vs. negative (IE: I can versus I can't)
- Willingness to learn or continue education and training
- Ability to take responsibilities for their mistakes
- Shows ambition and interest in their professional future
- Ability to wear many hats and take on new responsibilities
- Knows how they like to be recognized for a job well done"


What do you know about our restaurant?

With any job interview, it is crucial to understand the restaurant to which you are interviewing. Visit the restaurant website to learn critical information such as business hours, menu options, and even fun facts such as how the restaurant got its name. As a bonus, be sure to mention any positive interactions you have had with restaurant employees! You should visit the restaurant in-person before your interview. Order a variety of menu items and take note of the parts of the restaurant that runs well, and make notes on any changes you would recommend.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I visited your restaurant last week, to get a feel for the vibe and efficiency here. The food was incredible, and the service I received was quite attentive. I did notice some areas where we could cut costs and help you to save money, which I look forward to discussing further. I enjoyed my experience and would be pleased to work here as your new manager."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Here are some ways that you can get to know the restaurant before your interview:

- Visit the restaurant in person to perform some personal recon. Order a variety of food, and beverages. If it's a restaurant/bar, try to go twice to experience both sides of the business.
- Follow the restaurant on all social media platforms. Read through some posts to get a feeling for their marketing vibe.
- Comb through the restaurant's website. Read their blog, and take note of the "About Us" section. If there is a careers section, you can see where they are hiring and note any potential pain points. For instance, if most of the openings are in the kitchen, there may be a concern there that you can address in the interview.
- Read any online reviews. See if there is a common denominator in the 5-star reviews and the 1-star reviews."


What do you believe is the role of the restaurant manager?

The interviewer wants to know that you fully understand the importance of your role as a restaurant manager. As a manager, you need to ensure that the business is profitable, gaining momentum, strong reviews, retaining employees, and delivering a great product. Express your understanding and confidence in your ability to provide all of these things.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"The primary function of a restaurant manager is to ensure that the business is a well-oiled machine. When a restaurant is profitable, morale is higher, and this trickles down to the customer service experience. Could you tell me more about the areas you would like for me to focus on in the first 90 days?"

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I believe the role of a restaurant manager is to create an unforgettable customer service experience while helping retain staff and reduce costs. As a manager, I am prepared to follow the instructions of the business owner and help them to achieve their short and long-term vision."


What new trends have you discovered in the food industry?

The interviewer is interested in knowing how you stay up to date on new trends in the food industry. It is always a good idea to talk positively about change and discovering new trends. Be sure to only talk about new trends that you enjoy or are supportive of to remain positive and show the interviewer that you are open to trying new things.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"The trend I am most interested in, and I believe it's more than a trend, is responsible farming including meat that comes without added hormones or the use of antibiotics. I think that responsible agriculture is an important topic."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Right now, I'm seeing that people enjoy sharing a wide variety of appetizers, like tapas. I think that we can attract the social-eating crowd by offering more share plates."


What actions will you take to ensure our food costs stay below 30%?

Profit margins are slim for restaurant owners, and one of the main culprits is food costs. A restaurant owner needs to know that the manager they are hiring is just as invested as they are when it comes to cost savings and profitability. Some options for reducing food costs may include cutting portion sizes, streamlining the menu, simplifying dishes, or creating more cross-ingredient dishes.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"Keeping food costs low is crucial to the success of any restaurant. If food costs are creeping up, I will first look into waste and how we can avoid occurrences. Secondly, I will work with the chef on creating more cross-ingredient dishes, so that food ordering becomes simpler."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Here are some ways that you can reduce food costs in a restaurant kitchen:

- Reevaluate the menu plan. What is the cost to serve your customer versus their final bill?
- Create menu loss leaders to attract customers to spend more on appetizers, desserts, or drinks
- Only buy food in bulk that will not spoil. Buying in bulk can save money but only if you use the product in full
- Work with the chef on their menu plan and work on creating dishes that use the same ingredients"


How extensive is your wine knowledge?

If you are a wine connoisseur, excellent! If not, that's okay too, but you should express your interest in educating yourself in the wine realm. You don't need to be a professional sommelier; however, if you are applying for a role in a fine dining environment, you should have some wine-related education.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I consider myself an intermediate level wine connoisseur. In my career, I have visited many wineries and met with many wine reps. I have a strong understanding of the industry and am confident in my ability to choose excellent pairings for your menu items."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I would rate my knowledge in the wine industry as beginner level. I do have a keen interest in wine and would love to take additional training in this area."


Do you have any questions for me?

Before your interview, make sure you conduct research on the company and thoroughly review the job description for any clarification you may need on the position. Asking intelligent questions demonstrates to the interviewer your level of interest in their company, and the position.

If for some reason, you are unprepared for the interview, you may need to think of questions off the top of your head. Ask questions regarding company culture, traits they are looking for in the ideal candidate, and if there is anything not listed in the job description that this position will be in charge of. Typically, pay is not discussed during first interviews, so avoid asking any compensation related questions if you are not well into the interview process.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have a couple of questions so thank you for asking. What type of pain points is your restaurant currently experiencing? Also, what is the last successful practice your team implemented?"

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Here are some sample questions:

- When would you like to have this position filled?
- How long has this role been vacant?
- Is this a replacement search or a newly created role?
- What is your favorite part about working here?
- What is the company's primary goal for this position in the next 12 months?
- Is there anything from my background and experience that I can clarify for you?
- What do you see as the most significant change in this industry over the past three years?
- Is there any reason why you would not move me to the next stage of interviews?"


What is your experience managing inventory?

Inventory management is a crucial part of being a successful restaurant manager. Highlight for the interviewer how often you complete inventory and your methodology. If you keep checklists and spreadsheets, be sure to discuss that method of organization. If your stock has helped your employer to save money, it's great to talk about this as well.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"In the past two positions I have held, I have managed the bar and restaurant inventory. This included food, drink, and supplies. When I first began my current role, my employer was over budget on food costs by 15%. I was able to cut waste and streamline the ordering process, resulting in a 25% cost savings month over month."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"As I am new to my experience in the restaurant industry, I do not have a lot of exposure to tracking inventory. While attending my business degree, I did take some coursework related to inventory tracking and accounts receivable. I look forward to taking this knowledge to work for your restaurant."


Do you feel that you are currently paid what you are worth?

Many employees will look for new work if they feel that they are underpaid and underappreciated. Talk to the interviewer about your current compensation and whether or not you think it is fair.

If you feel you are currently paid what you are worth: "I feel that my current employer pays me fairly; however, I would like to see an increase in pay with an increase in responsibilities."

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I feel that my current employer pays me fairly; however, I would like to see an increase in pay with an increase in responsibilities."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am newer to my management career, but I trust that whatever you offer me, regarding compensation, will be fair and appropriate."


What will you do if a particular dish on the menu is not selling?

Clear communication between a restaurant manager and a chef is a crucial component to the profitability of a restaurant. Feedback can be tough to give at times but remember that your role as a leader is to encourage open conversation.

Discuss how you would ask the chef if they have heard any feedback from the servers about why the dish is not being requested. It may be a situation where the plate is merely not being promoted enough, and you may put together a game plan for how to 'push' the dish in the dining room.

Perhaps you decide with the chef that you need to spruce up the dish and release it with new wording on the menu. Or, maybe yourself and the chef determine that you are going to pull the recipe and replace it. Sometimes, 'out with the old and in with the new' is the best decision to make.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"If a particular dish is not selling, I prefer to come into the situation not demanding change but, rather, asking the chef for suggestions. They are the experts after all. I believe that strong collaboration is best and I will create a collaborative environment as much as possible."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am comfortable communicating directly with the chef on menu needs. I would approach them and share what we see in the dining room. If there is customer feedback that I can share, I will start with that. Otherwise, I would see if there is an opportunity for us to improve the dish or encourage our servers to romanticize the dish and increase sales."


What are your experiences with hiring staff?

Hiring is a crucial part of your job. The right team can make a restaurant more profitable. Hiring the wrong kind of people for your business can drag morale down and have a severely adverse effect on customer service.

If you have experience with making hiring decisions, discuss how you prepare for an interview by reviewing the candidate's application and having a set of interview questions that you ask each person. Be sure to mention if you interview by yourself or if you include someone else in the interviews. Talk about how many people you have hired as well as any interviewing training you have received. You can also mention your staff retention rate if you have that data available.

If you do not have experience with hiring, express that you are excited to learn this part of the job and that you welcome any additional training.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have experience acting as a hiring assistant. In my previous position, I filtered through resumes, conducted pre-screen calls, and reference checks. I feel confident that, with a small amount of training, I could take on this task entirely on my own."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"In my last position, I helped open a new restaurant and hired the entire staff of 24 people. I posted our open positions, scheduled a job fair, and reviewed resumes. After conducting all interviews, and reference checks, I was able to hire a team of hosts, servers, and bussers with plenty of time for training before opening the restaurant."


What experiences do you have in the restaurant field?

The answer to this question should be simple for you; however, the tough part is making sure you don't drag your answer on and on. Take just a minute or so to bring your resume to life for the interviewer. A simple overview of your role is excellent but be sure to add a few highlights or discuss and significant achievements.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have worked in the restaurant industry for the past eight years. I started as a busser and worked my way up into an assistant manager role a couple of years ago. My promotion came after I made some changes in scheduling and ordering which saved the restaurant a significant amount of money in workforce and excess supplies."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am newer to the restaurant industry; however, I do have some experience working in retail management. The experience that I can bring you includes inventory management, scheduling, staff management, merchandising, upselling, and more."


Do you have experience with terminations?

Terminating someone's employment is never easy, and your goal is to ensure that most of these situations are seamless transitions for everyone involved. You also need to ensure that you are conducting terminations in a manner that abides by your region's laws. Discuss how you might coach an employee to perform better, or talk about a time that you put a performance plan into action to save an employee from termination. If you do not have experience in employee terminations, focus on discussing what you feel would be the most moral way to let an employee go.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have worked with employees on performance plans when they are under-performing but have not directly terminated anyone. This task is left to our regional manager who ensures that all of our human resource policies are followed to a tee. I am confident that I can successfully follow through on terminations while keeping HR policies top of mind."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I have only once needed to terminate an employee. I had a server who was never on time and was not getting along well with the other staff. I met with him on three occasions to discuss our attendance policy and coached him a bit on his communication issues. Ultimately, I had to let him go, and it was better for the team. Terminations are never pleasant. However, I don't mind following through on these tasks to benefit the team and profitability of the business."


How do you handle customer disputes?

The interviewer would like to know how you handle stressful situations involving unhappy customers. As a restaurant manager, your ability to handle customer complaints can make or break your candidacy. Be ready with an example when you went above and beyond when handling a customer complaint. Be sure to tell the interviewer what solution you offered to the customer. Perhaps you did not charge them for the meal. Maybe you offered a new dish for them to try. Close with how happy the customer was when they left!

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have specific training in customer dispute resolution and am happy to train your employees on the techniques I have learned, over the years. In my experience, allowing the customer to talk, and express their feelings, is the most important step to creating a resolution. Also, my tone is fundamental. I am empathetic, nod a lot, and use the correct body posture to show that I care."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Here are some key factors to successful interaction with upset customers:

- Allow the customer to be heard. Show that you care about their feelings of frustration
- Be prepared with empathetic statements such as "I understand" and "That must have felt terrible."
- Never be passive, roll your eyes, cross your arms, or disagree with the customer
- Focus on the important factors. Many upset customers will bring up small issues that are not related to the primary concern. Always bring the conversation back to the issue at hand
- Avoid saying "never" but say "likely" or "possibly."
- Keep the conversations out of the public eye. Anger will be fed by an audience"


What would you do if you saw a server about to deliver a poorly plated meal to a customer?

Your goal as a manager is to not only have happy customers but to have satisfied employees too, and you never want to embarrass one of your servers in front of the team or their customers. Employees who feel trusted and competent are more likely to stay with you or the long term.
Discuss how you would ask the server to walk back to the kitchen with the plate without making a scene.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"Every experience like this is an opportunity for further training. If the plate was delivered to the customer, and the customer complained, I could show the server what the plate should look like. I would also use this as an opportunity to further train the kitchen staff on the quality that needs to come out of the kitchen at all times."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I would never correct a server in front of a customer. Unless you have a policy that states otherwise, I would try to intercept the plate before it arrived at the table. I could use the experience to train further the employee on how to better screen dishes before delivering them to their tables."

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25 Restaurant Manager Interview Questions
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Interview Questions

  1. What makes an interviewee stand out, in your opinion?
  2. What do you know about our restaurant?
  3. What do you believe is the role of the restaurant manager?
  4. What new trends have you discovered in the food industry?
  5. What actions will you take to ensure our food costs stay below 30%?
  6. How extensive is your wine knowledge?
  7. Do you have any questions for me?
  8. What is your experience managing inventory?
  9. Do you feel that you are currently paid what you are worth?
  10. What will you do if a particular dish on the menu is not selling?
  11. What are your experiences with hiring staff?
  12. What experiences do you have in the restaurant field?
  13. Do you have experience with terminations?
  14. How do you handle customer disputes?
  15. What would you do if you saw a server about to deliver a poorly plated meal to a customer?
  16. We are struggling with leadership in our restaurant. How will your leadership make us better?
  17. Tell me about the last restaurant you worked in. What was the overall vibe?
  18. You just noticed the chef using expired ingredients. How do you handle this situation and what do you say?
  19. Why are you leaving your current position?
  20. Tell me about your management experience.
  21. What trends would you like to implement at this restaurant?
  22. How well do you get to know the customers that visit your establishment?
  23. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  24. When would you be available to start?
  25. You have a few gaps in your resume. Can you explain these?
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