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 because interviews at restaurants and coffee shops are fairly common, it's important to be prepared with appropriate outfits. 

There are two factors that will help you decide what to wear: the type of job you're applying for and where the interview will take place.

If you're applying for a high-level management job, for example, you will want to dress up even if you're interviewing in a casual eatery. Wearing a suit to interview over coffee isn't too formal if you're applying for a vice president's role, but if you're applying to be an assistant, 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 for your dress code than if you are interviewing in an office. 

Continue reading for guidance on what to wear at different eateries, from coffee shops to upscale restaurants, along with advice for mealtime 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.

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 elevate your look. 

Casual Lunch

Man interviewing at a restaurant
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When you’re invited to a lunch interview, research the restaurant online to 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, and khakis or colored slacks for men and women, and boat shoes for men and flats for women.

Take into account the season too. For example, an outdoor, patio-type eatery is not likely to 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 wearing either an open blazer over a button-down with no tie or a button-down with a tie and no blazer. In the second case, you might opt for an accessory like a vest or a pullover sweater.

For women, try either a knee-length pencil skirt with a simple button-down top or a simple, tailored dress with low heels or flats. This dress code 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 a jacket, shirt, tie, dark socks, and dress shoes. For women, business attire includes a suit, dress slacks, a blouse, or a 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 position as a server, barista, hostess, bartender, or cashier, stick to an all-black look: a black button-up, wrinkle-free, black slacks or a pencil skirt for women, and a black dress shoe.

If you're interviewing for a managerial or supervisory 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 the setting is more casual and can lead to a more conversational vibe. It also offers an opportunity for interviewers to get a glimpse at your social skills. If you're applying for a role in which people skills are important—like that of a salesperson, for instance—this is important.

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

Just as in any interview, though, if you are polite and engage in 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 here. Plus, check out our tips for an informal interview over coffee here. 

Article Sources

  1. CareerOneStop. "Dress for Success." Accessed Feb. 19, 2020.