7 Questions to Ask Your Next Server
For many of us, working at a restaurant is a rite of passage. According to the National Restaurant Association, half of all adults have worked at a restaurant at some point in their lives. In fact, 10% of the country’s workforce is currently employed in a restaurant, most in entry-level positions, such as servers. With traditionally high turnover in the service and hospitality industry, it can sometimes feel like a revolving door of training new hires. But this doesn’t need to be the case.
When hiring your next restaurant server, you need to look beyond the ability to correctly take orders or deliver platters of food. You need to find someone who is passionate, thoughtful and a perfect ambassador for your dining establishment. Sounds like a big task (it is!) but we’ve compiled seven essential interview questions that will make the hiring process a whole lot easier.
1. How do you handle yourself in high-pressure situations?
Ask for specific examples where they exhibited grace under pressure or successfully dealt with a stressful situation. How do they deal with angry or frustrated customers? How do they navigate a busy kitchen? You should also candidly explain the demands of the job and the pace of work so they can honestly assess if the environment is right for them.
2. What are your long-term goals?
This might sound like a strange question to ask a first-time job seeker, but the reality is, most people who start out in the restaurant industry don’t stick around. If you’re looking to build out your team once and avoid rehiring, listen carefully to their answers. Students, artists, and those seeking to grow in the industry all have different priorities, so it’s important to make sure both yours and their expectations are aligned.
3. Tell me how you stay organized.
Every server will claim to be organized, but how exactly do they execute their skills in real life? Do they have a photographic memory? Do they write in shorthand? Do they repeat their orders to the customer? An exceptional server will have his or her system down pat and should be able to tell you exactly what they do to keep their tables and coworkers happy.
4. Are you reliable?
Or you can just find out what happens when you schedule your interview. If they are late, or unkempt, or simply don’t show up, consider these red flags and avoid yourself the headache of trying to reschedule. Servers are hourly positions, which means every minute counts. If they don’t bother to make a good first impression at the interview, what does that mean for when they actually get hired?
5. What are your best personality traits?
Being a server means being around people all the time, and hopefully, making them feel relaxed, at ease, and happy to be dining at your establishment — which is why it’s so important that your future server knows how to relate to people. In this answer you should be looking for qualities or keywords, such as: being outgoing, intuitive, empathetic, honest, friendly, patient, understanding, or a good listener.
6. What do you enjoy about serving?
Chances are if you actually like your job, you’ll be better at it and more likely to stay for the long haul. When hiring, look for more than someone who simply gets the job done — find someone who really wants to do the job, and do it well. Far less people are in this latter category, so when you do find someone who is truly passionate about serving at your restaurant, you may want to give them a chance, even if they don’t have the desired experience.
7. What motivates you to succeed?
As an employer, it’s your job to regularly engage with your employees and make sure they feel valued and satisfied in the workplace. During the hiring process, ask applicants to tell you what types of perks or incentives they might expect or would like for stellar performance (i.e., free food, discounts, bonuses). If you do not already have an incentive program in place, you may want to consider starting one to increase employee loyalty and retention.
Once you get answers to these questions, we promise you’ll be better informed to assess which candidates should move forward in the interview or training process. And, before you know it, you’ll be welcoming an exceptional new hire to your restaurant team — with confidence and peace of mind.