31 Restaurant Manager Interview Questions (+ Sample Answers)

Facing a restaurant manager interview is like manning a busy kitchen: it calls for readiness and poise. Mastery of the interview process is key to turning aspirations into job offers.

  • For Candidates, this article is a treasure trove of insights designed to sharpen your responses and showcase your managerial prowess.
  • For Interviewers, it serves as a blueprint to identify the candidates who are not just competent but also a cultural fit for your establishment.
  • For Mentors and Coaches, it is a resource to assist you in sculpting the interview approach of your protégés, empowering them to present their qualifications and personalities with clarity and confidence.

This guide provides strategic interview questions with sample answers, arming candidates, interviewers, and mentors with the essentials for a successful interview process in the restaurant management field.

Table of Contents

Skill-Level Determiner Questions

1. How do you determine appropriate stock levels to minimize waste but avoid shortages?

This question evaluates a candidate’s inventory management skills—a crucial aspect of running an efficient restaurant.

A good answer should include:

  • Mention the use of inventory management systems or software.
  • Discuss the importance of tracking past sales data and forecasting.
  • Describe the role of supplier relationships and order lead times.
Sample Answer:

"To determine appropriate stock levels, I employ a mix of historical sales data, seasonal trends, and forecasting methods. This data-driven approach, combined with regular inventory audits, helps me to anticipate customer demand accurately. 

I also build strong relationships with suppliers to ensure a responsive supply chain that can quickly adapt to fluctuating demands, hence minimizing both waste and shortages."

2. How do you plan and manage the staffing schedule to meet operational needs?

This question gauges a candidate’s ability to allocate human resources effectively while considering employee needs and ensuring customer satisfaction.

A good answer should include:

  • Discuss balancing the staff’s availability with the restaurant’s busy times.
  • Address how you account for unexpected absences or peak times.
  • Talk about the importance of clear communication and flexibility.
Sample Answer:

"When scheduling staff, I first analyze customer traffic patterns to identify peak periods. I then match this with staff availability, ensuring that I schedule our most experienced staff during high-volume times. I maintain a buffer of part-time or on-call staff to manage unexpected absences. 

Clear communication and advance scheduling are key, as these give the team enough time to plan their personal time around their work schedules."

3. How do you forecast sales and plan your budget for a restaurant?

This question aims to know how the candidate uses analytical skills to predict sales and allocate funds appropriately.

A good answer should include:

  • Highlight experience with financial software or tools used for forecasting.
  • Mention collaborative planning with kitchen and dining room managers.
  • Explain how you adjust forecasts and budgets based on past performance and market conditions.
Sample Answer:

"Forecasting sales starts with analyzing historical data, market trends, and seasonal influences. I work closely with the kitchen and dining staff to project future costs and sales. 

Regularly reviewing and adjusting the budget based on this data helps maintain financial health. It's also crucial to consider unexpected factors, such as economic shifts or local events, which might impact sales projections."

4. Describe how you would manage the floor during a busy evening shift.

This question assesses the candidate’s ability to multitask and maintain order during high-pressure situations, ensuring customer satisfaction and efficient performance from the staff.

A good answer should include:

  • Discuss your strategy for monitoring both staff and customer needs.
  • Talk about delegation and the importance of quick decision-making.
  • Explain how you maintain calm and keep the team focused.
Sample Answer:

"During a busy shift, I maintain a clear floor plan and assign roles based on staff strengths while keeping communication channels open. I keep an active presence on the floor to oversee operations, stepping in to assist or delegate as necessary.

It's important to stay calm and focused, quickly addressing any issues before they escalate and ensuring our guests receive attentive service."

5. How would you use social media to increase our restaurant’s visibility and customer engagement?

This question explores the candidate’s ability to leverage technology for marketing purposes.

A good answer should include:

  • Discuss specific social media platforms and their particular strengths.
  • Highlight examples of content that can engage customers.
  • Address how you align social media strategies with the restaurant’s branding and values.
Sample Answer:

"I utilize platforms like Instagram and Facebook to tell our restaurant's story and connect with our audience. By sharing high-quality images of our dishes, promoting special events, and engaging with user-generated content, we can increase our online presence. 

Regularly monitoring and analyzing the impact of different posts help to refine the strategy and enhance engagement continuously."

6. How do you integrate new team members into your existing team to ensure a smooth transition and maintain morale?

This question focuses on team dynamics and the candidate’s strategies for assimilating newcomers into a cohesive workforce, which is important for maintaining a positive workplace culture.

A good answer should include:

  • Speak about your onboarding process and training programs.
  • Explain how you facilitate introductions and foster team relationships.
  • Describe measures for continuous support and feedback for new hires.
Sample Answer:

"An effective onboarding process is crucial. I start by introducing new employees to the team and mentoring them closely during their first few weeks. Encouraging regular team-building activities helps new members feel included and valued. 

Ongoing support through scheduled check-ins and an open-door policy ensures any issues are addressed promptly, maintaining team morale."

Other Skill-Level Determiner Questions:

  • What strategies would you use to control costs in our restaurant without compromising quality?
  • How do you handle underperforming staff members?
  • What method do you use to evaluate which items are generating a profit and which are not?

Behavioral-Based Questions

1. Describe a time when you successfully handled a difficult situation with a dissatisfied customer. How did you resolve the issue?

This question is significant as it assesses the candidate’s customer service skills, empathy, and problem-solving abilities.

A good answer should include:

  • Emphasize your active listening skills and patience in dealing with the customer.
  • Highlight your ability to empathize with the customer and offer a suitable resolution.
  • Showcase your understanding of the importance of customer satisfaction in the success of the restaurant.
Sample Answer (STAR Method): 

"In my previous role, a customer was upset about the wait time for their special-order dish. I apologized and explained the situation, ensuring empathy for their inconvenience. I offered them a complimentary drink and an appetizer while they waited, and checked in frequently to update on the progress. 

After the meal, I provided a discount on their order and a voucher for their next visit. My response was appreciated, and the customer later returned, praising our customer service."

2. Describe a situation where you had to deal with an underperforming staff member. How did you address the performance issue?

This question evaluates the candidate’s leadership and management skills, including their ability to identify performance issues and apply corrective measures effectively and sensitively.

A good answer should include:

  • Describe how you communicated with the employee to understand the reasons behind the underperformance.
  • Explain the action plan you developed with clear and measurable goals, and the support provided to help them improve.
  • Discuss the follow-up process and outcomes, focusing on both the staff member’s development and the positive impact on the restaurant.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"I noticed one of my servers had become less attentive and was receiving negative feedback. I scheduled a private meeting to discuss their performance, providing specific examples and expressing my belief in their potential. 

We pinpointed areas for improvement and worked together on an action plan that included additional training. Over the next month, I saw a marked improvement in their commitment and customer service ratings."

3. Can you provide an example of how you dealt with a significant drop in restaurant sales or customer traffic? What strategies did you use to turn the situation around?

This question aims to gauge the candidate’s strategic thinking, analytical skills, and ability to implement effective solutions to drive business growth under challenging circumstances.

A good answer should include:

  • Explain the approach taken to analyze the reasons behind the drop in sales or traffic.
  • Discuss the specific strategies you employed to attract customers, such as marketing initiatives, menu revamps, or events.
  • Reflect on the results of these strategies, with quantifiable data if possible, to demonstrate their effectiveness.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"When I observed a decline in sales, I conducted a market analysis to determine potential causes. I discovered our menu had grown stale compared to the competition. To counter this, I implemented a seasonal menu and launched a local marketing campaign highlighting our new offerings. 

Additionally, I introduced a weekday happy hour to attract after-work customers. Over three months, we saw a 20% increase in sales and a significant boost in evening traffic."

4. Have you ever experienced unexpected changes that threw off your plans for the restaurant? How did you adapt, and what was the result of your actions?

This question helps to understand the candidate’s ability to adapt to change and manage uncertainty, which are essential traits for restaurant managers who operate in a dynamic environment.

A good answer should include:

  • Highlight your problem-solving skills and ability to think on your feet.
  • Discuss how you communicated with and coordinated your team to address the changes.
  • Showcase the positive outcomes or lessons learned from the experience.
Sample Answer (STAR Method): 

"Once, a power outage occurred right before the dinner rush. I immediately adapted by initiating our emergency protocol, which included informing customers of the issue and our efforts to resolve it. I reassigned staff to handle candles and flashlights, and we served a limited menu of cold dishes. 

Despite the conditions, our customers praised the staff's poise and our creative response to the situation. The incident actually strengthened our community rapport and showcased our team's solidarity."

5. Tell us about a time when you had to step in for an absent employee or cover an unforeseen staffing shortage. How did you prioritize and manage the workload?

This question looks for evidence of the candidate’s hands-on approach, flexibility, and resourcefulness in managing unexpected staffing challenges that can directly affect the restaurant’s operations.

A good answer should include:

  • Show your ability to lead by example and your willingness to take on various roles within the restaurant.
  • Describe how you assessed the situation and prioritized essential tasks to ensure continued operation.
  • Mention how you used this as an opportunity to refine the scheduling or cross-train other employees.
Sample Answer (STAR Method):

"When the head chef unexpectedly fell ill, I stepped into the kitchen to help coordinate meal preparations, drawing on my past culinary experience. I reprioritized duties among the remaining staff and temporarily simplified menu offerings to maintain food quality and service speed. Throughout the shift, I ensured that communication stayed open and that the team felt supported. 

Consequently, we not only managed to serve all customers to their satisfaction but also to bond more closely as a team, reaffirming our capacity to meet challenges together."

Other Behavioral-Based Questions:

  • Recall a scenario where you effectively managed your restaurant’s budget or reduced costs. What methods did you use to achieve financial efficiency?
  • Share an example of when you had to react to a health code violation or emergency in the restaurant. What actions did you take to address the issue and prevent future occurrences?
  • Discuss a time when you had to work closely with the kitchen staff to enhance menu offerings or improve meal quality. How did you approach this collaboration?

Situational-Based Questions

1. Should a new restaurant open nearby creating stiff competition, what strategic steps would you take to differentiate our restaurant and retain our customer base?

This question gauges a candidate’s strategic thinking and adaptability, key for maintaining the restaurant’s competitive edge in a dynamic market.

A good answer should include:

  • Highlight understanding of the unique value proposition of the restaurant.
  • Discuss the importance of market research.
  • Suggest strategies that focus on customer loyalty and experiences.
Sample Answer: 

"To differentiate our restaurant, I would firstly delve into understanding our unique selling points and amplify them. This could involve enhancing our signature dishes, improving customer service, and offering loyalty programs. 

Conducting market research to understand our competitors and customer preferences would inform targeted promotions or events. Most importantly, I'll ensure we create an atmosphere and dining experience that cannot be easily replicated."

2. With frequent supply chain disruptions, what proactive measures would you take to ensure the restaurant’s ingredient supply remains stable and high-quality?

This question evaluates a candidate’s foresight and risk management skills in maintaining consistent operations despite external challenges.

A good answer should include:

  • Outline the importance of having multiple suppliers.
  • Talk about establishing strong relationships with local producers.
  • Mention the role of inventory management software or systems.
Sample Answer: 

"To proactively handle supply chain disruptions, I would diversify our supplier list to avoid dependency on one source. Building a network of local producers can not only assure supply but also improve ingredient quality. 

Additionally, utilizing inventory management systems will allow us to predict shortages and respond in a timely manner."

3. Employee turnover is higher than the industry average. What would you implement to improve employee satisfaction and retention?

This question probes a candidate’s ability to create a positive work environment, which is crucial for minimizing costs related to high turnover.

A good answer should include:

  • Emphasize the significance of a supportive work culture.
  • Suggest regular feedback and engagement activities.
  • Propose clear pathways for employee growth and development.
Sample Answer: 

"I believe in fostering a workplace culture where each employee feels valued. I would implement regular feedback sessions to understand and address their concerns, conduct team-building activities, and provide professional development opportunities. A happy team usually translates into lower turnover and better customer service."

4. Your restaurant is challenged by local activists to reduce its carbon footprint. What concrete steps would you propose and initiate?

This question probes the candidate’s environmental consciousness and their ability to implement sustainable practices in the restaurant.

A good answer should include:

  • Mention measures to reduce waste, like composting or recycling programs.
  • Discuss the adoption of energy-efficient appliances and practices.
  • Consider the possibility of sourcing more ingredients locally.
Sample Answer: 

"To reduce our carbon footprint, we can start by analyzing our current operations and identifying key areas of waste. Implementing a recycling and composting program is one step, along with switching to energy-efficient appliances. We could also explore more local sourcing, reducing the transportation emissions associated with our ingredients."

5. Imagine there’s a health scare linked to an ingredient in your supply chain. How would you handle the situation to ensure customer safety and retain trust in the establishment?

This question assesses crisis management skills and the ability to maintain a brand’s reputation during challenging situations.

A good answer should include:

  • Stress the importance of immediate and transparent communication.
  • Outline the necessity of prompt action to remove the ingredient from the supply chain.
  • Mention working with health officials and conducting a thorough investigation.
Sample Answer: 

"In the case of a health scare, I would prioritize customer safety by immediately removing the compromised ingredient from our menu and supply chain. 

Communication is key, so I'd issue a transparent statement to our customers, informing them of the situation and the actions taken. We would cooperate fully with health officials and conduct an internal review to prevent future incidents."

Other Situational Questions:

  • If you were tasked with improving profitability without cutting staff or lowering quality, what initiatives would you propose?
  • Imagine that economic changes have led to increased food costs. How would you reassess and adjust the menu pricing without losing customers?
  • With food allergies on the rise, how would you ensure that your menu is accommodating and safe for guests with allergies?
  • If the restaurant experiences a seasonal slump in the winter, what strategies would you plan to implement in advance to boost revenue during those slower months?

Organizational Fit Questions

1. Can you describe how your management style aligns with a high-energy, customer-focused restaurant environment?

This question is designed to evaluate whether the manager’s leadership style will complement the lively and customer-centric atmosphere of the restaurant.

A good answer should include:

  • Highlight the candidate’s ability to motivate and energize their team.
  • Show an understanding of the importance of a customer-first approach.
  • Reflect the candidate’s adaptability and proactive problem-solving skills in a dynamic environment.
Sample Answer:

"My management style is energetic and team-oriented, fitting well with dynamic restaurant settings. I lead by example and use open communication to encourage idea sharing and align our team with service excellence. Recognizing standout employees regularly also helps keep the team motivated."

2. Describe how you have managed a diverse team and what steps you take to ensure inclusivity within the workplace.

This question intends to assess the candidate’s capability and experience in fostering an inclusive workplace that values diversity.

A good answer should include:

  • Encompass examples of fostering an inclusive work environment.
  • Include specific ways to respect and celebrate different cultures, experiences, and perspectives.
  • Describe the positive impact of diversity on the team and business outcomes.
Sample Answer:

"In my prior role overseeing a culturally diverse team, I promoted inclusivity through cultural celebrations and diversity training. I was proactive in offering equal growth opportunities and integrating diverse perspectives, enhancing both staff satisfaction and our customer experience."

3. What strategies would you employ to cultivate a sense of team unity and pride within our restaurant?

The question seeks to understand how the candidate plans to foster a strong team dynamic that can drive collective pride and unity.

A good answer should include:

  • Present methods for building and maintaining team rapport.
  • Reflect strategies for aligning the team with the restaurant’s values and goals.
  • Indicate the importance of recognizing and rewarding team and individual accomplishments.
Sample Answer:

"I build team unity by fostering open communication and unifying the team around common goals. Acknowledging individual and group accomplishments and organizing social events are key strategies I use to create a prideful and cohesive team environment."

Other Organizational Fit Questions:

  • How would you advocate for our restaurant’s interests while also accommodating team members’ individual needs and aspirations?
  • How do you interpret our restaurant’s mission statement, and how would that interpretation guide your actions as a manager?

Job Interview Tips

  • Research the restaurant’s cuisine, culture, values, and customer base. Tailor your answers to demonstrate how you align with their specific brand and mission.
  • Have concrete examples ready that highlight your experience with cost-saving initiatives, team development, customer service excellence, and conflict resolution.
  • Be ready to discuss your management style, how you handle stress, and the way you motivate employees. Leadership is crucial in this role, and you should convey confidence and approachability.
  • Understand the basics of P&L statements and be able to discuss budgeting, cost control, and revenue growth strategies. Managers need to drive profitability, so show that you can make well-informed financial decisions.
  • A genuine passion for creating an exceptional dining experience is essential. Convey your enthusiasm for hospitality and how you inspire your team to share that passion.

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Brenda Calisaan is a psychology graduate who strongly desires to impact society positively. She aspires to spread awareness and knowledge about mental health, its importance, and its impact on individuals and society.

She also has a passion for working with children and hopes to dedicate her career to positively impacting their lives.

Outside of work, Brenda is an avid traveler and enjoys exploring new experiences. She is also a music enthusiast and loves to listen to a variety of genres. When she's not on the road or working, Brenda can often be found watching interesting YouTube videos, such as Ted-Ed content.