If you were to poll your neighborhood foodservice managers or restaurant owners and ask them what their biggest challenges are, you’ll likely find that hiring and keeping the best staff members is at the top of their list.

Turnover is high in the Food and Beverage industry, particularly for restaurants – averaging  66.3% annually, according to the National Restaurant Association – and all that turnover is expensive.The payroll cost standard is 30-35% of your restaurant’s total sales, according to Baker Tilly’s Restaurant Benchmarks. On top of that, training falls into the hands of not only your managers, but your strongest staff members as well, taking valuable time away from their own tasks.

While it may sound daunting, you’ll find that your money and time will be well spent when you can suss out the candidates who will reflect the culture of your establishment and who are dedicated to giving your guests a fantastic experience that keeps them coming back again and again.

So, how do you find someone that is worth the investment?

Get to the heart of your potential new hires by asking these questions during your restaurant hiring interviews:

1. Why do you want to work in the food and beverage industry? 

The best restaurant employees take pride in their ability to provide guests with a wonderful experience. Whether you’re hiring a server to handle a white-tablecloth dinner service or a line cook to make pizzas during a busy lunch rush, the desire to make people happy is a must!

Are your candidates having trouble coming up with an answer? Or are they excited to tell you why they want to be a part of this challenging industry? Hopefully, it’s the latter!

2. What does “hospitality” mean to you? 

The dictionary defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” A great candidate will sum this up in their own words, giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

3. Tell me about your most memorable hospitality experience. 

Tack this on to question #2, and see how it connects. Do you feel the candidate is being genuine in their answer? Does the person go into great detail? This should give you insight into what type of service they feel they should provide to your guests. A thoughtful, detailed answer, be it a positive or negative experience, shows that you’re interviewing someone who will put a lot of thought into their job.

4. If a customer presents you with a coupon that clearly states “not valid with other offers,” and they try to use it with another offer, how would you handle that? 

It’s a given that the candidates probably don’t know the policy when it comes to special offers at your restaurant, and you may not even have offers in the first place! The “correct” answer lies in their reaction. Do they clam up, get nervous? Or do they stay calm and keep a smile on their face?

How they react to this question is a great indicator of how they’d react under pressure; if  a candidate can’t keep their cool here, how are they going to do so in the middle of a busy service, when the level of pressure is much higher?

5. What do you do when you’re not working? What are your hobbies? 

This is a great question, especially when hiring a server or bartender! The ability to build a relationship with guests throughout their experience can make the difference between a one-and-done guest or a loyal advocate for your establishment. Having interests outside of work is essential for making small talk, as well as maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Any of us who have worked in F&B can attest to how easy it is to burn out when your job is to make others happy!

6. Tell me about a conflict you’ve had to deal with involving your co-workers, and how you handled it. 

Much of the focus on hiring is on guest satisfaction, but being a team player, behind the scenes, is just as important. With this question, you can judge someone’s maturity level, and the ability to overcome difficult situations and hold themselves accountable for their relationships in a team setting. Patrons absolutely love to be taken care of by a staff that is clearly having fun and enjoying the time spent with their coworkers.

While the best answers to these questions will depend on your food business’s specific needs, they will certainly help you gain much better insight into a candidate that you won’t be able to get from a resume.