Why this matters:

If it isn’t properly handled, cooked, or stored, raw meat can pose serious health risks to the public — including food poisoning, E. coli, and salmonella infections. Since your next food specialist will play a vital role in training other staff and ensuring best practices are followed, they need to have a firm grasp of food safety and hygiene standards.

What to listen for:

  • Demonstrated knowledge of current industry best practices for storing and handling raw meat
  • Understanding of the health risks that irresponsibly handled food poses to the public
  • Ability to share knowledge in a way that is easy to grasp

Why this matters:

Ensuring the food your business prepares and serves is fresh is key to keeping your customers safe. An ideal food specialist is vigilant about monitoring expiration dates, spotting spoiled ingredients, and disposing of them properly. But they also take measures to minimize food waste by proactively managing inventory.

What to listen for:

  • Understands “first in, first out” and other inventory management methods
  • Knowledge of appropriate temperatures for storing perishable foods
  • Sense for how long to store different perishable food items before they spoil

Why this matters:

Restaurants and other establishments that serve food must always keep their customers’ safety top of mind or risk becoming liable for illnesses and injuries incurred. When beverages are too hot, customers have been known to experience burns, sometimes requiring medical attention, so it’s important for staff to recognize what temperatures are acceptable.

What to listen for:

  • Capable of citing reasonable temperature ranges for serving hot beverages
  • Comprehensive awareness of safety standards and knowledge of how to execute them
  • Demonstrated care and concern for customers’ well-being

Why this matters:

Customer service is an important component of most food specialist jobs. A strong candidate will prioritize customer satisfaction and remain courteous and accommodating (within reason) when addressing a patron’s dissatisfaction, even if the person in question is acting rudely.

What to listen for:

  • Excellent de-escalation techniques and tactics, such as refund offers and free items
  • Capable of resolving situations in a way that leaves customers satisfied

Why this matters:

In any eating establishment, there’s plenty of side work that needs to be done when the employees aren’t busy preparing or serving food. Supplies such as napkins and condiments must be restocked. Inventory needs to be checked. Counter spaces and tables have to be wiped down. An ideal candidate will recognize that there’s always work to be done, even when business is slow, and won’t be afraid to roll up their sleeves.

What to listen for:

  • Seeks out ways to support coworkers and help the establishment run smoothly
  • Demonstrated willingness and enthusiasm for being a proactive teammate

Why this matters:

Food specialists are often involved in recommending, developing, and leading training programs to ensure all team members have a thorough understanding of correct food handling procedures. As such, the best food specialists often exhibit strong leadership skills and are eager to impart their knowledge to their colleagues.

What to listen for:

  • Communication skills to properly teach other team members
  • Demonstrated leadership that understands the importance of teamwork in food service

Why this matters:

To help their establishments achieve successful health department inspection ratings, food specialists need to continuously monitor evolving guidelines and regulations. This makes a constant learning attitude essential. Failing to follow guidelines could not only result in fines and reputational damage for the establishment, but could put customers at risk.

What to listen for:

  • Resources to monitor evolving regulations, such as health department memos
  • A commitment to keeping skills and knowledge up to date

Why this matters:

Great food specialists can think on their feet, even in a fast-paced environment. Many eating establishments and related businesses experience high volumes of customers, and a busy shift may present many scenarios where the resident food specialist needs to solve problems quickly and effectively to support their team.

What to listen for:

  • Innovative solutions backed by steps for preventing the problem from recurring
  • Reference to similar unexpected problems solved in past high-pressure situations

Why this matters:

Food specialists work as part of a team, so you want to know that your candidate is willing to help their coworkers out during challenging situations to keep the business running smoothly and the customers happy. An ideal candidate will show they’re invested in the overall success of the establishment and that they take pride in offering customers exceptional service.

What to listen for:

  • A strong teamwork ethos and enthusiasm for helping others
  • Specific examples of having helped others, even in inconvenient situations
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