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Restaurant and cafe interviews are tricky. On the one hand, you want to shine and stick out from the other applicants. On the other hand, food service work can be repetitive, grueling and dirty, and it's important to show that you're a team player with realistic expectations. Approach your interview as a juggling act aimed at showing who you are and what you know while also demonstrating that you are familiar with the less glamorous aspects of the industry.
Do Your Homework
You'll be well positioned for your interview if you know something about the restaurant or cafe where you're interviewing. Do your homework by visiting its website and even going there to eat. If it's run by a well-known chef or food personality, perform an online search and learn about his food philosophy and his reputation. Use this information to craft a message to present at your interview, tying your own culinary approach to the restaurant's orientation.
The food world is full of mammoth egos and strong personalities. Whether you are applying for a position as a server or a cook, your interviewer will likely be primarily interested in whether you can put your own ego and agenda on hold, and work to serve the vision and menu of the establishment where you are applying. Although you may eventually have a chance to express your culinary creativity if you are hired, your initial job will probably be mundane and repetitive. Show that you're patient, humble, and willing to work your way up from the bottom.
Flexibility is an essential element in restaurant work. Demand fluctuates unpredictably and restaurants and cafes often struggle to cover shifts at the last minute or find themselves overstaffed on slow nights. If your personal schedule allows you the flexibility to work more or less as customer volume demands, make this clear in your interview. Show that you understand the erratic scheduling rhythm of cafe and restaurant work, and are open to rising to the occasion when necessary.
Bring a Resume
A restaurant or cafe owner is unlikely to base his hiring decision strictly on your resume. After all, it doesn't really matter where you've worked or gone to school if you're stubborn and arrogant, and you clearly won't mesh with the workplace culture. Conversely, you may be able to land a job with minimal experience if you're clearly passionate and earnest. Despite the fact that your resume won't likely be a primary criteria for being hired, you should nonetheless have the document ready in case the interviewer wants to see it.
Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.
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