What to Wear to a Job Interview at a Restaurant

It can be tricky to dress for an interview in a non-office setting, but interviews at restaurants are fairly common, so it's important to be prepared with appropriate outfits. 

There are two factors that will help you decide what to wear. The first one is the type of job you're applying for. The next important consideration is where the interview will be taking place.

If you're applying for a high-level management job, for example, you will want to dress up your look even if you're interviewing in a casual eatery. Wearing a suit to interview over coffee isn't too formal if you're applying to a vice president role. But, if you're applying to be an assistant, wearing a tie or formal outfit may be overkill.

No matter what type of job you're seeking, it's important to put in the effort to make a good first impression. In general, though, an interview at a restaurant does afford slightly more freedom in dress code than if you were interviewing in an office. 

Get guidance for what to wear at different eating venues, from coffee shops to upscale restaurants, along with advice for meal-time interviews. 

Coffee Shop

Woman at an interview in restaurant
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Most coffee shop meetings don’t require full-on business formal attire, but it’s important to take into account the whole picture, too.

If you have an interview with a start-up company at a neighborhood coffee shop, for example, you can likely get away with a crisp top and dark-wash jeans. However, if you're interviewing for a management-level position and the interview's taking place at a fancy coffee shop in a high-rise corporate building, then you will want to 'upsell' your look. 

Casual Lunch

Main interviewing at a restaurant
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When you’re invited to a lunch interview, research the restaurant online and see if you can find a dress code rating on sites like Yelp or OpenTable.

If there’s no mention of a dress code, and the place doesn’t seem especially fancy or exorbitantly expensive, you may be able to get away with a polished, but easy-going business casual look. Think lighter colors, relaxed button-downs, khaki or colored slacks for men and women, and boat shoes or flats for men and women.

Take into account the season, too. For example, an outdoor, patio-type eatery will not likely be the setting that requires a head-to-toe business formal look. 

Mid-Scale Lunch

Two people dining at a restaurant
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For an interview at a mid-scale restaurant, try a relaxed business formal look. Men might consider an open blazer over a button-down with no tie, or a button-down with a tie and no blazer, but an accessory like a vest or pullover sweater.

For women, try a knee-length pencil skirt with a simple button-down, or a simple, tailored dress with low heels or flats. This type of dress also applies to happy hour meetings or a drink in a relaxed but upscale environment, like a hotel lobby or a lounge. 

Upscale Lunch

People dining at a fancy restaurant
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A classic, upscale business lunch or dinner at a five-star establishment requires full-on business formal attire. Business attire for men comprises a suit or dress slacks and jacket, shirt, tie, dark socks, and dress shoes. For women, business attire includes a suit, dress slacks, blouse, or formal dress with hosiery and closed-toe shoes.

What to Wear When the Job Is at the Restaurant

Barista pouring a latte at cafe
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If you're interviewing for a server, barista, hostess, or cashier position, stick to an all-black look: a black button-up, wrinkle-free black slacks or a pencil skirt for women, and black dress shoe. If you're interviewing for a manager or supervisor role, try a polished business casual look.

Tips for Interviews at Coffee Shops and Restaurants

Restaurant manager reading employee resume during interview
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Often, hiring managers opt to hold interviews during meals or over a coffee because it's more casual and can lead to a more conversational vibe. It also offers an opportunity for interviewers to get a glimpse of your social skills. If you're applying for a role where people skills are important (like a sales person, for instance) this is important.

Still, for interviewees, it can come with some stressors, from knowing what to order to eating at the same speed as your interviewer. 

Just as in any interview, however, if you are polite and engage in the conversation, you'll be able to make a good impression. Get more tips for how to ace an interview that takes place in a restaurant instead of a conference room or office building.