Working in a restaurant could be your career, or it could be one stop on the way to your career. Either way, restaurant jobs are often competitive, because they normally pay well despite requiring only short shifts. Here are a few ways to increase your chances of getting a job in a restaurant.
1. Try Hosting First
If you don’t have any previous experience, you have a better chance of landing a restaurant job as a host. Here, you’ll be the first face diners see, and you’ll control the seating of the restaurant. You may also have duties like procuring silverware, napkins, and bussing. Starting out as a host allows the manager to see how well you work under pressure and whether you put a good face on the restaurant when it gets busy.
Whether you’re going in for an interview or just inquiring about available positions, you should be a little over the top with your attire. A suit and tie is a good idea even if the restaurant is casual; it shows that you take the manager’s time (and will take your job) seriously.
3. Emphasize Your Experience
Never worked in a restaurant before? Then be creative. You can parlay any volunteer, hospitality, or customer service work as learning experiences that will carry over to your restaurant job. If you’ve been waiting tables in a bar for years, it might be time for you to graduate to a bartending position.
4. Consider Your Education
If you want to work in high-end bars or become a career bartender, consider taking a bartending class. These courses are generally inexpensive and don’t take a lot of time to complete, but they can go a long way toward helping you get a bartender gig.
If you want to work in the kitchen, you should put your culinary school on your resume. Even if you’re going to school full time for something unrelated, like astrophysics, include this coursework on your resume—it proves that you’re conscientiousness.
5. Smile and Be Yourself
No matter what you do, restaurant jobs require you to be friendly. That means smiling naturally even when you’re nervous, and making friendly conversation when your customer is being high-maintenance. You have to show your interviewer that you’re polite, genuine, and sincerely happy to be there. If not, they won’t trust you with customers.
6. Ask for Referrals
Chances are, you have a friend or two who work in the restaurant industry. Bartenders, waiters, and hosts tend to socialize together in large networks of people, staying closely connected even when they end their jobs. Don’t be afraid to ask if their restaurant is hiring, and if it is, ask for a recommendation. If they let you know about another restaurant that’s hiring, ask them to introduce you to someone there who you can make a good impression to. Referrals are a huge source of talent in this industry, but make sure you express gratitude for the help (i.e. buy them lunch or send a thank-you card).
7. Working During Tourism Season
If your city has a specific time of year when tourists flock to it —say summer in beach towns—try applying a few months or weeks out from tourism season. Generally, hiring standards are a little more lax as managers scramble to fill their restaurants with enough servers, hosts, and bartenders to handle the rush. This can get you some good experience as you continue to apply to higher-skilled positions, and will give you a good idea of how the restaurant industry works.
Working in a restaurant is a really rewarding experience that allows you to work face-to-face with customers. You’ll meet many different kinds of people, earn a good paycheck in a short amount of time, and stay on your feet at all times. It can be a little hard to get your foot in the door, but once you join a staff, you can have a lot of fun while earning a good living.