Restaurant Manager Interviews: Gauging Top-Tier Talent
You’ve sifted through a thick stack of resumes, carved out every possible interview time slot and spent hours delving into the backgrounds of restaurant manager candidates. You finally select one and then train them to run your operations like a water-tight ship. Weeks later though, you discover that treasured employee is nothing but fool’s gold. What’s worse, the new manager’s personality clashes with your team’s, causing many valued employees to consider jumping from that ship. Now you’re back to the dock, beginning the hiring process all over again.
You may wonder: What red flags did I miss the first time around? Don’t beat yourself up with this question. Filling important roles quickly with qualified candidates doesn’t come naturally to most restaurant owners, especially those without a long history of human resource experience. It takes practice to find top-tier hospitality professionals who are not only qualified for the position but also the company. However, a few tips and tricks may help shorten that learning curve. First, before conducting restaurant manager interviews, you must consider the types of personalities that best fit within this role.
The Restaurant Manager Personality
Before holding your restaurant manager interviews, you’ll want to reflect on your current staff and the personality that would work well within that environment. Or, consider where you want your team to be six to 12 months from now. If you focus first on hiring an individual with the right personality, you can refine the insufficient skills. Training goes a long way in developing a great manager, while one’s nature is hard-wired, nearly impossible to alter.
As you seek your next restaurant manager, use the interview to uncover personality examples that fit into these four categories:
Single-tasking and mindfulness are all the rage, while multitasking has taken a bad rap of late. When people double-up, trying to perform more than one task at a time, both tasks suffer, says research by the American Psychological Association. However, in their role, restaurant managers generally likely can’t afford this luxury. Sometimes supply deliveries arrive right when a knife-wielding chef mistakes his finger for a carrot (for example). Maybe an unannounced health inspector walks through the door just as your sous chef calls in sick with the flu. These things happen, and often at the same time. A competent restaurant manager can’t stop the chaos but can manage it with finesse.
Managers with stellar social skills help build long-lasting restaurant brand reputations. Their communication skills fall into five areas:
- They exude confidence. Whether talking to the dishwasher, cook, supplier, or VIP guest, confident restaurant managers do so with poise. Those with self-assurance maintain eye-contact, speak at the appropriate volume, and communicate clearly.
- They communicate concisely. When giving instructions or training an employee, they offer clear direction that enables action. They don’t ramble and leave staff with glazed eyes, cocked heads or furrowed brows.
- They are attentive. Expert communicators tune in to another person’s message. They’ve honed their listening skills, and have perfected their ability to interpret both verbal and non-verbal clues accurately. They don’t talk over others or finish another person’s sentences for them. Those skills are crucial when dealing with upset diners or miffed waitstaff.
- They know their crowd. Managers with heightened interpersonal skills are aware of their audience. They adjust their language and communication style to make complex concepts digestible, whether communicating with cooks or to patrons.
- They choose the best communication methods. Certain forms of media don’t always work in every situation. Wise restaurant managers know when to provide a verbal briefing to an owner, what information they can safely dispense through a text message, and when a well-documented email about a situation is warranted.
Deliberate organizers go beyond keeping things in running order for a restaurant. They also keep accurate and up-to-date employee records required by the US Department of Labor. That skill keeps owners out of legal hot water. Furthermore, staying on top of tedious documents like staff scheduling, inventory orders, overtime hours worked, payment processes, and more help proactive restaurant managers maintain smooth, compliant, and well-documented business processes. Or, there’s a chance that all of this information can be managed digitally.
Practical Stress Managers
Staying calm under the stress of employee conflicts, power failures, equipment breakdowns, or inventory error can be a challenge, but the captain of a restaurant “ship” requires it. Your crew must see their leader performing in ways that inspire them when under stressful situations so they can better perform their roles. Effective restaurant managers have a “been there and done that” attitude because they’ve found ways to minimize their stress so that it doesn’t affect others around them.
As the author, Richard Branson says, “If you aren’t innovating, you are going backward.” In addition to all the other operational responsibilities, masters of restaurant management also carve out time to be visionary and proactive about operational processes and technology improvements. Whether it’s managing your kitchen display system, hardware, point-of-sale, or restaurant reservation system, smart managers envision which technology configurations work best. To innovate, they actively schedule brainstorming time so that new ideas flourish, and they can prepare implementation plans and solutions for problem areas. Your restaurant manager carries the torch for your restaurant’s culture of innovation. Ensure that your top management candidate possesses this particular trait; it will serve your future restaurant expansion plans.
Restaurant Manager Interview Questions
To ensure your next management hire has the traits that lead to restaurant success, study these behavioral and functional questions and tweak them to uncover the exact skills, experience, and behaviors you need for your restaurant.
Situational restaurant manager interview questions give your candidate the opportunity to reveal the functions that he or she has performed in the past, and hopefully mastered. Asking these types of questions will force your interviewee to ditch the “stock” answers and provide responses that require critical thinking skills. When conveying information from past job situations, they often reveal how they are likely to perform for you in the future.
Functional/Situational Questions and Scenarios
To help get a better feel for how your new-hire might handle the daily tasks associated with their job, below are a few questions to consider asking.
- What would you do to handle an upset diner? How would you resolve their concern?
- Let’s say you walk in one morning to find three inches of water throughout the kitchen caused by a busted pipe and you can’t reach me, the owner, what do you do?
- How would you deal with a slacking member of your staff who’s falling behind and hindering the guest experience?
- In a situation where you have a health inspector who arrives, just as you are dealing with a diner disturbance on the floor, to which do you give the top priority and why?
- What changes or improvements would you make to our operations if you ran our establishment?
Behavioral Questions and Scenarios
The next set of questions in our restaurant management interview will key in on the experiences of your candidate. They will prompt further exploration of the candidates’ abilities and skills, by giving you concrete examples of how they would handle similar events in your restaurant.
- Walk me through a time when you were in extreme restaurant chaos and then take me step-by-step through the way you handled it.
- Share a time when you identified a problem in the restaurant and how you resolved it.
- Tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had and what do you think gave them that distinction?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a restaurant owner and how you both resolved it.
- What professional accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
Ethics and Integrity
Look at any job posting for a hospitality professional and you’ll see job descriptions with wording like this:
- “Solves problems tactfully with directness and integrity.”
- “Possesses an intense work ethic and extremely high integrity.”
- “Has the ability to maintain integrity throughout all actions.”
- “Resolves conflicts to protect service integrity”
Not surprising, integrity is the most-mentioned corporate value. The long-term success of your restaurant operations depends upon hiring managers with a moral character that don’t raise eyebrows. Businesses with 15 or more employees must abide by the nondiscrimination policies under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and follow the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on workplace harassment. All the federal and state rules and regulations require honest dealings with employees, and you want to hire someone up to the task.
During your restaurant manager interviews, you’ll want a candidate who remains transparent with you, as they are vital to your financial success. You’ll be hiring someone who will become privy to most of your delicate business information, like finances. Those nefarious characters who want to skirt the system by taking a couple of shots off top-shelf liquor, comp a $40 entrée here and there, or skim money can do backbreaking financial damage until anybody notices and takes action.
When conducting your interviews for a restaurant manager, keep in mind that a wrong hire can wreck finances, destroy a restaurant’s culture, and send employees running for the back door. They can also make things much better, though. By prioritizing integrity, passion, culture, and talent inherent in restaurant management candidates, you’ll find the right hire and experience more success.
Are you in the process of hiring a new restaurant staff? Maybe you’re just looking to improve upon what you already have? Read our article on building a restaurant dream team, below!
About the Author
Amber Mullaney led all things marketing for QSR. A proud Texan native, she graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Public Relations and spent her career in the healthcare industry before making the switch to QSR and beyond, saying she loves a good challenge. Amber has a long list of things she loves, including tacos (especially tacos), sweet tea, Texas, the outdoors, and traveling with her husband and two daughters.