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Skills to Work in a Restaurant

Updated 04/08/2024

If you’re going to work in food service or restaurant management, you’re going to spend some time hiring. OK, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time hiring, particularly restaurant staff. The most effective way to reduce these constant hiring requirements is to knock as many of your new hires out of the park as you can. It all starts with the resume review and interviewing process.

When looking over resumes for a potential restaurant worker, veterans with five-plus years of experience can be naturally attractive, but you might not see many of them. Instead, many potential candidates or restaurant workers will be coming to you with little restaurant work experience or for their first job. Here are some ways you can find the best employees through that initial resume search and interview.

Essential Skills for Food Service Employees

When it comes to successful skills for working in a restaurant, many ideal qualities in a candidate will be mental rather than physical. Being able to carry a superhuman amount of dishes or memorize a dozen complicated orders at once is impressive. But neither of these skills for a restaurant ensures the long-term success that employees with an engaged, enthusiastic mindset can bring.

How Employee Engagement Affects Business

Happier, more attentive employees drive customer experience and satisfaction, which grows your business. According to recent research, investing in the employee experience is one of the best ways to improve employee performance and customer happiness. 

Harvard Business Review found that for organizations in the food service sector, for each one-star increase in a business’s employee rating on Glassdoor, they could predict a 3.2 increase in customer satisfaction.1 That’s a significant amount of potential growth to capture if you select suitable candidates to grow your business with.

Gallup estimates that disengaged employees were responsible for approximately $1.9 trillion in lost productivity last year in the U.S. alone.2 Detachment from their employers and a disconnection from the company’s mission and purpose were two of the most significant factors for employee disengagement.

Improve food quality and consistency. Learn more!

Look for Happy

Enthusiasm makes our list as the first thing you should look for in a new employee because this trait supports so many other things. Your employees, particularly your front-of-the-house employees, are the face of your company to your customers. You want that face to be as happy and personable as possible, right? You should be able to get a feel for the employee’s enthusiasm during the interview. If they get you more excited about coming to work, hire them on the spot. These restaurant workers with great customer service skills are essential to providing the best restaurant experience.

Team Players

Another must for any new hire. The food service business can be a roller coaster at times and you need employees who can help the team along for the ride. Whether it’s picking up an extra shift, staying late to help a fellow staff member or taking on extra work, team players are invaluable. Ask about this during the interview and look for employees who have been involved in team-based activities — like sports — outside of work. 

Commitment to Safety and Hygiene

While important in any company, these ideals are especially important in food service. Food safety is crucial and you need to know that employees will do their best not only to uphold the image of your business but also protect its sanitary requirements and the safety of themselves and their fellow coworkers. Any skill can be taught, but you need employees who will value safety and hygiene each day.

Attention To Detail

Whether it’s mixing drinks, garnishing plates or food preparation in the back of the house, your menu’s flavor and your business’s bottom line depend on the proper measurement of exact ingredients. A well-written resume — free of typos — can give you insight into a candidate’s ability in this regard. You can also ask them to provide examples of how they deliver according to specifications during the interview.

Multitask Masters

Monotony will never be a word used to describe food service. There are always two, three, four or seven tasks that need juggling. Whether it’s watching 10 different orders on the grill or managing a whole series of tables, you need restaurant staff who can successfully handle multiple projects at the same time. When looking at resumes, look for candidates who have balanced work and school or multiple jobs. Search for candidates with this experience and you stand a better chance of finding those with this trait.


Look for leaders, even among those applying for your simplest jobs. Class presidents, team captains and people with past managerial experience all fit the bill here. Leaders lead. They take initiative without direction and offer suggestions on ways to improve the business. They’re hungry to better themselves and may be more likely to stay with your business long-term. Hire a leader and you may just be grooming a future manager to take over all of that new hire interviewing in the years ahead.

Conflict Resolution

In any customer service setting, there will be conflict. Your business’s reputation may depend on an employee’s successful navigation of that conflict, whether it’s your managers, wait staff, or social media representatives. A candidate that folds under pressure or lashes out at customers may cost your restaurant valuable customer opinion or even result in financial or legal repercussions.

Some restaurant skills to look for in candidates that will be useful for successful conflict resolution include:

  • Problem-solving – Whether the conflict stems from a customer-employee interaction or two arguing employees, the problem at hand may require creative thinking to solve. Adept problem solvers can identify the issue’s root and find a compromise to satisfy both parties successfully.
  • Perspective – Being able to solve problems and resolve conflicts successfully often relies on the ability to understand another person’s perspective. Those who can masterfully resolve conflicts take an effortful approach to understanding the other party’s position and grievances.
  • Proactivity – Whether it’s realizing a conflict is about to happen or taking the necessary steps to follow up on the resolution of a disagreement, your ideal candidate will take a proactive approach to stepping into problems to stop them in their tracks or to defuse tensions successfully.

Works Well Under Pressure

Anyone who’s worked in the food service industry understands the infinite pressures that can influence the job: time pressure to deliver orders quickly, social pressure to solve problems with unpredictable customers, and performance pressure to deliver quality food consistently.

Your candidate must juggle all of these pressures simultaneously. As a restaurant manager or owner, you require a particular set of skills to ensure a candidate’s high performance and ability to represent your business as favorably as possible.

To gauge a candidate’s ability to work well under pressure, ask them about their experience with the following techniques.

  • Prioritization – When every task is of equal importance, it’s easy to drown in work—especially in the restaurant business, where high volumes of orders come in regularly. Prioritizing critical tasks and delegating or delaying non-essential tasks will ensure an employee’s productivity and stability while working under pressure.
  • Planning – A restaurant’s busyness is only a nightmare if your employees are underprepared. Look for a candidate who demonstrates the ability to think ahead, improving their ability to deliver in a hectic setting and reducing their chances of getting flustered.

For more information or working in the restaurant industry, read about how to sell yourself in an interview


  1. Harvard Business Review. The Key to Happy Customers? Happy Employees. https://hbr.org/2019/08/the-key-to-happy-customers-happy-employees
  2. Gallup. In New Workplace, U.S. Employee Engagement Stagnates. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/608675/new-workplace-employee-engagement-stagnates.aspx
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