Tips for Finding a Job in the Restaurant Industry
By Joe Stein
One of the largest areas of the Hospitality industry is the Food and Beverage portion. Western New York is blessed with a wide variety of restaurants that differ in menu and style. As we enter one of the busiest times for this industry (tourism, catering, etc.), let’s example some tips for you to consider as you explore job opportunities in this area.
· Tailor Your Message – The type of restaurant and position you are applying for will guide you in the direction of how to tailor your message. Restaurant requirements vary for different positions, such as between a dish washer or and a hostess. Similarly, a local diner will have some different needs when compared to fine dining. Generally speaking, an employer will want to be able to envision you in their type of facility. For example, your dress when interviewing for a fine dining establishment may be much more formal than for a quick serve or fast food facility. Similarly, your Cover Letter and Resume should stress the similar experience you have to the position you are pursuing.
· Make a Connection – If you have enjoyed eating at the restaurant you are pursuing, then express that to the Hiring Manager. Connect with the person by expressing how you have been impressed with the Customer Service and the food when you have visited. Explain to the Hiring Manager that this is one of the reasons that you want to work for this establishment. It will allow you to make a connection with the person, while also cementing to him/her that you are comfortable in that environment. At minimum, prepare yourself by being familiar with the menu and the history of the restaurant or overall chain.
· Communicate Transferable Skills – If you have not worked in the type of restaurant you are pursuing, and then stress the transferable skills that you possess. For example, if you are interviewing for a quick service or fast food restaurant and you lack the experience, then provide examples when you have been in a fast-paced, deadline oriented environment.
· Take the High Road – Most Hiring Managers in the restaurant business understand that the typical employee does not make a many-year career at one location. They generally expect that you have worked at a few places prior to applying at their restaurant (job hopping, however, is never recommended). If that is the case, avoid speaking poorly of you previous supervisors and companies. The restaurant business may have some locations that are not ideal in terms of supervisors or working conditions, but “take the high road” and communicate what you enjoyed, while looking forward to this opportunity in front of you.
· Customer Service Rules – In the restaurant business, other than the dishwashers and the prep help, almost everyone has some interaction with customers. The type of restaurant you are interviewing with will help determine the level of interaction. A smaller restaurant may have everyone pitching in depending on the time of day, while a larger facility or chain may have much more defined responsibilities for employees. Stress how you enjoy helping and interacting with customers (even in busy, high-pressure times). Convey how you have successfully handled situations such as food delays or an error in preparation. It is important to make sure you are making eye contact in the interview and speaking clearly and confidently - just like you would to a customer. This is especially true when interviewing for a server position. One last thing…don’t forget to smile!
· Stress Your Flexibility – As mentioned above, the size of the restaurant may serve to determine the level of flexibility needed, but in any situation it is an asset. Stress how you are willing to be cross-trained and learn different jobs. You should also stress whatever openness to scheduling you may have, whether that may be nights or weekends. Generally, if you desire one of the few full-time positions in a restaurant, then weekend work will be required. You may also be asked about how you feel about working certain holidays such as Mother’s Day, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc.; these are typically busy days for a restaurant. If you do not want to work those days, you are probably pursuing a job in the wrong industry.
· Sell Your Reliability – Just as your flexibility will be welcomed, you can also impress the Interviewer by selling how reliable you are. This is not always a trait found by your co-workers in the restaurant business. If a person is tardy, absent, or needs to end their shift early, it places a real burden on others. If you are a reliable person who needs little adjustment in your work schedule, it will be much appreciated. What a relief it is for a supervisor when he or she knows you can be relied upon.
· Display Trust – In the restaurant business, it will be important for a supervisor to know that you can be trusted. You may be exposed to credit card numbers or cash payments left on a table. Stress how you have handled yourself in past situations. If you have an example of a time when you displayed trust such as reporting a lost wallet or purse, it will probably be received well by the Hiring Manager.
There are many types of positions in a restaurant from the behind-the scenes group (dishwasher, prep, cook/chef), to the customer service focused (Host/Hostess, Server), to the people who manage the facility. Whatever role you are seeking, now is a good time to be in your Hospitality job search. The tips outlined above have hopefully provided you with some ideas to consider, that will allow you to stand out from the competition.
As always, best of luck in your job search.