How to Hire the Best Restaurant Employees - 10 Traits

May 18, 2023

Running a successful restaurant requires more than just delicious food and an inviting ambiance. The backbone of any thriving establishment is its employees. Good restaurant employees possess a unique set of qualities that contribute to exceptional customer service and efficient operations. In this article, we will explore the top traits that make a restaurant employee stand out.

1. Excellent Work Ethic

This trait is obvious of course, but it has to be said first! Working in the restaurant industry is a tough gig, tougher than most.

A good restaurant employee exhibits a strong work ethic by consistently demonstrating diligence, reliability, and dedication. They take pride in their work, arrive on time, and consistently put forth their best effort. They understand the importance of their role and are committed to providing excellent service to both customers and colleagues.

Sample Interview Question: "Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond your normal duties to ensure customer satisfaction or the smooth operation of a restaurant. How did you approach the situation, and what was the outcome?"

2. Excellent Customer Service Skills

Exceptional customer service is the hallmark of a successful restaurant. In fact, customer service is part of your product–not just the food! Bad service means you have a bad restaurant (product).

Good employees possess excellent customer service skills, including being attentive, friendly, and empathetic towards guests. They actively listen to customer needs, address concerns promptly, and strive to create a positive and memorable dining experience.

Sample Interview Question: "Describe a challenging customer service experience you've encountered in the past. How did you handle it, and what steps did you take to ensure the customer left satisfied?"

3. They're a Team Player

Running a restaurant is a team effort more than most jobs, and good employees understand the significance of collaboration. They communicate effectively, cooperate with their colleagues, and support each other to ensure smooth operations and customer satisfaction. They are willing to lend a helping hand and understand that the success of the team is vital to the success of the restaurant.

Sample Interview Question: "Give an example of a time when you had to work closely with a team to complete a task or achieve a goal. How did you contribute to the team's success, and how did you handle any conflicts or challenges that arose?"

4. Adaptability and Flexibility

In the fast-paced restaurant industry, adaptability is key. Good employees can handle changing circumstances with ease. They are flexible, able to switch tasks seamlessly, handle busy rushes efficiently, and adapt to new procedures or menu changes without compromising quality. Their adaptability ensures a smooth dining experience for customers and a well-functioning team.

Sample Interview Question: "Tell me about a time when you had to quickly adjust to a sudden change in the restaurant's operations or menu. How did you handle the situation, and how did your adaptability contribute to maintaining a positive customer experience?"

5. Attention to Detail

Maintaining high standards in a restaurant requires meticulous attention to detail. Good employees have an eye for detail and consistently deliver accurate orders, ensure food presentation is visually appealing, and uphold cleanliness and hygiene standards. They understand that every detail counts in creating a positive impression on customers.

Sample Interview Question: "How do you ensure accuracy and attention to detail in your work? Share an example of a time when your attention to detail helped prevent a mistake or improve the overall quality of service or presentation."

6. Ability to Handle Pressure

Restaurants can be high-pressure environments, especially during peak hours. Good employees remain calm under pressure, manage stress effectively, and make sound decisions to ensure efficiency and customer satisfaction. Their ability to handle pressure contributes to a positive work environment and smooth operations.

Sample Interview Question: "Describe a busy or high-pressure situation you've experienced in a restaurant. How did you manage your time and prioritize tasks to ensure smooth operations and customer satisfaction?"

7. Product Knowledge

A good restaurant employee has comprehensive knowledge of the menu. They are familiar with ingredients, preparation methods, and potential allergens. They stay informed about daily specials and are able to provide knowledgeable recommendations to enhance the dining experience. Their product knowledge helps create a seamless and enjoyable interaction with customers.

Sample Interview Question: "How do you stay informed about the menu and any special offerings? Provide an example of how your product knowledge has enhanced a customer's dining experience or helped with their decision-making process."

8. Time Management

Efficient time management is crucial in a restaurant setting. Good employees prioritize tasks, manage their time effectively, and meet deadlines. They understand the importance of promptness in delivering orders, ensuring a smooth workflow, and providing customers with a satisfying dining experience.

Sample Interview Question: "Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple tasks or responsibilities simultaneously. How did you prioritize your workload, and how did your time management skills contribute to meeting deadlines or delivering exceptional 

9. Positive Attitude

A positive attitude can significantly impact the overall atmosphere of a restaurant. Good employees approach their work with enthusiasm, maintain a positive demeanor, and foster a welcoming environment for both customers and colleagues. Their positive attitude creates a warm and inviting atmosphere that keeps guests coming back.

Sample Interview Question: "How do you maintain a positive attitude in a fast-paced and sometimes challenging restaurant environment? Share an example of how your positive attitude has influenced the atmosphere of the restaurant or positively impacted a customer's experience."

10. Commitment to Continuous Learning

The food industry is constantly evolving, especially when it comes to restaurant POS systems, and good employees show a commitment to continuous learning. They seek opportunities for growth, attend training sessions, and stay updated on industry trends and best practices. Their dedication to learning ensures they can adapt to changes and contribute to the restaurant's ongoing success.

Sample Interview Question: "How do you stay updated on industry trends and best practices? Describe a time when you proactively sought out learning opportunities or implemented new knowledge or skills to improve your performance.

Bonus Tip: Use a scorecard to rate your candidates

Scorecards are a great way to measure and align the team members who are helping to interview candidates. It can be super simple. Simple is better. Grade candidates A, B, or C on the attributes you care for most. Your top candidates will have 50% of the card being an A, and the other 50% a B. Ideally don’t hire any candidates that score a C on any attribute. Remember that A players are often worth 5 C or B players!


Closing Thoughts:

In conclusion, the traits mentioned above are what set a good restaurant employee apart. By hiring individuals who possess these qualities and fostering an environment that encourages growth and teamwork, restaurants can cultivate a strong and capable team that contributes to their success. Good employees are the driving

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