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back of house kitchen staff

By 2025, the National Restaurant Association predicts there will be 1.7 million new restaurant jobs, bringing the total number of employees in the industry to 14 million.

Sounds like it’s time to get our interview chops ready, restaurant management.

Interviewing For A Restaurant Job

Whether it’s a server, bartender, host or chef, working in a restaurant requires a mix of skills. Although BOH restaurant jobs are “behind the scenes”, they are some of the most important jobs in the restaurant.

Those who possess a good work ethic and a whatever it takes attitude will be the most passionate and therefore the best staff you can hire. Sure, it would be nice to assume that you can always learn about a person from their hello… but we know that’s not true…

… which is why we’ve put together a list of the 5 “must ask” questions for interviewing BOH restaurant staff.

5- How Would You Address A Sudden Change?

The kitchen runs out of a key ingredient to make the special, an unexpected party of 10 shows up late for their reservation, or someone in the kitchen staff calls out sick. How employees respond to (and proactively solve for) the problem you suggest is a key indicator of how they will work on your staff.

hand of chef baker in uniform adding spice into pizza after pizz

Not only will the answer to this question indicate work ethic, but also will clue you into how this person will need to be managed.

4- What’s The Toughest Job You’ve Ever Had?

For BOH restaurant employees, days can vary. It’s important that your employees are comfortable with change, ambiguity, and challenges. A good answer to this question should give you some indication into the candidate’s stamina and staying power.

Dig a little deeper and ask why or why not the candidate chose to stick it out.

Why is turnover is so high, what is the actual cost, and how do you fix it? Find the answers in our Staff Management ebook.

Download The Guide

3- How Do You Respond To Guest Complaints?

It can be all too easy to take things personally. The last thing you want is an employee that would risk damaging your restaurant’s reputation by mistreating a guest.

It’s important to assess the candidate’s ability to “let it go” and it’s equally as important to assess the candidate’s ability to respond appropriately to problem-solving skills.

2- Can You Describe A Recent Problem You Had With A Manager?

Listen closely and between the lines for how a candidate responds to this one as it will indicate how the person cooperates and works with others. Plus, you can also learn what’s important to them based on how they phrase “the problem”. A good answer to this question lets you know 2 things: 1) What the candidate sees as an issue worthy of raising to the surface and 2) How the candidate worked to solve the problem.

1- Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

A potential employee’s response to this question gives a good indication of where they see value in a job. Understanding why they would choose to leave a job gives you a good idea of what they are looking for out of working with you.

waitress tying on her apron

Bonus: First Timers

If you find yourself talking with someone who has never worked in the BOH (or even a restaurant) before, you’ll want to pry on a few more things:

  1. Why do you want to work at [Restaurant Name Here]?
  2. What do you do in your spare time?
  3. What are 3 words your closest friends would use to describe you?
  4. How long do you see yourself working in the restaurant industry?

Finding The Process That Works For Your Restaurant

Of course, for every candidate, you’ll also want to ask the core questions about previous jobs, why the candidate wants to work for your restaurant and future plans, too!  However, keeping a set of core questions specific to BOH employees helps you best compare candidates.

Time constraints in a fast-paced environment like yours can make it hard to feel like you have the ability to maintain consistency in this process. But you can! With the right interview process and questions in place, you can consistently hire high caliber restaurant employees.

Check out Upserve’s Guide to Staff Management!

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In a perfect world, Theresa would spend her days reading good books and writing all the time... and she'd own all the shoes her heart desired. When she's not on the hunt for shoes, you can find this Rhode Island transplant on the hunt for food that comes close to "Long Island". Her favorite? Caffe Dolce Vita in Providence's historic Federal Hill.
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