Do You Ask These Critical Interview Questions for Managers?

Critical Interview Questions for Restaurant Managers
// By Kyle Thacker // , May 2, 2019

Topics: Restaurant Management

Losing a restaurant manager can be really devastating. It can upend employee relationships, diminish a positive work culture, derail finances, and it's flat out really expensive to replace management, with hiring costs ranging from 30 to 400 percent of their annual salary. The smartest methods to reduce turnover should be put in place before you even hire someone.


The entire recruiting process is important, but one of the best ways to vet restaurant managers is during the interview. There are key questions to ask that will give you a valuable projection on how these employees will turn out. Just make sure you are asking these critical interview questions to restaurant managers.


Quick Back Story


Restaurant turnover is a pain in the butt and it happens more than it should. Put it this way, if the industry turnover rate and your grade for a college class were the same, you'd pass the class! At 72.1 percent, the hospitality industry outpaces all private-sector turnover by nearly 30 percentage points.


A hard number on the turnover rate for management is harder to pin down, but a hotel industry study pegged it at 25%. I think it's safe to assume that the turnover rate for management in independent restaurants and regional chain restaurants is higher.


By improving your hiring and recruiting process, you can ensure that you're only bringing in the most qualified candidates. The restaurant industry is a social one, and often times hires come from referrals, or from someone you've worked with previously. But what types of questions can you ask potential managers when you don't share a personal connection?


To start, breakdown your questions into different areas you would like to cover.


This helps you think about the entire scope of a manager's duties, and makes sure you won't miss asking a key question.


We separated questions into 5 segments:

  • Job History
  • Financial
  • Employee Relations
  • Customer Relations
  • Data Proficiency 


So let's get to it!


Job History


It's important to understand a potential employees job history. It's the best indicator of how they will perform as your employee. But scanning a resume isn't enough. It's important to hear your new hire talk about their previous experience in the industry.


1. What was your longest tenure of employment at a restaurant? What was the shortest? 

                - Follow up: What factors for each job made you stay or leave? 

This is important. The whole point of asking the right questions is to make sure you're not going to have to set up more interviews for the same position 3 months later. Looking at the length of employment gives you an idea about their loyalty and commitment to their job. Repetitive short stints at restaurants indicates a problem. But it's important to not  just look at the dates of employment on their resume and take that at face value.

2. Have you ever been promoted to a new position at your work? 

Receiving promotions is a sign of a job well done. If a manager has had the positive experience of promotion, it can be an indicator on how they will treat and respect employees in the future.

3. What was your first restaurant job? 


Familiarity with Restaurant Finances


Learning about your new managers proficiency with finance reporting is a must. Restaurants run on razor thin margins, and being on top of finances is a key to making sure those margins are positive.

1. How did you handle financial reporting at your previous restaurant?

Follow up with specifics for revenue, labor, and inventory.

2. Tell me about an instance in which you increased revenue for a specific sales segment at a previous restaurant?  

3. What successful budgeting practices have you used before to manage costs?

Budgeting is putting your expenses on a diet. Has your new employee ever used a depreciating budget?

4. How do you manage labor costs during a shift?

Follow up with specifics for an understaffed shit or an overstaffed shift.


Read Backbar's Liquor Cost Guide


Employee Relationships


Handling employee relationships is a big aspect of a restaurant manager's job. The nature of the service industry creates a lot of crisis points in the relationship between employee and employer. Anything from the size of a server's section to a rude customer or a missed shift can impact this relationship. And with the restaurant industry being the largest employers of teenagers and young students, it's important that managers are capable of acting as a mentor

1. How have you previously helped an employee through a difficult experience?

2. Have you ever had to fire an employee before? What was that situation like? 

3. What is your training process like when hiring new staff?  How will you continue to educate staff?

3. Have you had to discipline an employee for drinking on the job before? 

Let's be real, the restaurant industry has a unique relationship to employees and drinking. Sometimes a customer buys them a shot, sometimes an employee takes it upon themselves to have a drink . The latter example doesn't always lead to an immediate firing. It's good to know how a manager handles this unique aspects of hospitality life.

4. How do you handle shift drinks for employees?


Customer Relationships


Some managers are more comfortable on the floor than others. But it's necessary for managers to engage with guests, both happy customers and not.

1. Are you comfortable talking with guests and checking in on tables? What value does that bring to the customer experience?

2. Talk about an instance when you dealt with a customer complaint, allergy, or negative experience in one of your restaurants? How did you handle this?

3. What situations require a manager to "comp" a portion of a customer's bill? How active are you with sending out complimentary drinks or food to enhance a customer's experience?

Managers can abuse their comp privileges. You don't want a manager overly reliant on comping bills in order to appease guests. It can mean an unnecessary loss in revenue.


Data Proficiency

The restaurant industry is changing. More services are available to help restaurants capture and assess data on their customers' behavior, employee performances, operating costs, and menu management. As these services continue to become more widely used, it will be necessary for managers to have the skill to, or at least an openness to analyzing data.

1. What experience do you have analyzing sales and cost numbers  

2. What recent technology software or services have you used at previous restaurants?

3. Which areas of a restaurant do you think will benefit most from new tech services?


Kyle Thacker

About the author, Kyle Thacker

Kyle is the Marketing Director for Backbar. Before helping Backbar connect with the restaurant industry, he managed multiple bars in Chicago, with a love of whiskey and cocktails.

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