For those who want to know everything.

Exit Interviews, Powerful And Under-Utilized

How was it working here?!?


Finding the answer to this question is one of the most powerful tools you have in finding solutions to problems, finding new ways of doing things and understanding what is working great.

Every person that works in your organization has a unique view that you don’t.  You may have a great view but you don’t have every view, it’s just not possible.  When a member of your staff leaves, it is vitally important someone reaches out to them to ask some important questions.  There is no better way to receive honest feedback of the restaurant you run.  We can all improve, we just have to decide if we really want to.

Restaurants are tight knit, unlike the large sprawling corporations that often implement exit interviews.  Because of this tight knit feeling, we often think that we know everyone’s view, that nothing new could be learned.  Often times departing employees will be dismissed entirely from the attitude that since they’re leaving, they can’t contribute to the future success of the restaurant.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  You have the ability to see what they saw while they were working for you.  You can learn how they would change things, and believe it or not, some things are worth changing.  You can learn of better ways of doing things.  You can get ideas!

Be prepared to check your ego.  Be ready to turn off the automatic responses of justifying behavior, becoming defensive or offended.  The answers you receive are important and unless you treat them as such, you won’t gain anything from them.  The answers you receive will probably hold compliments and critiques.  Both are important.  You want to build on the good and re-build the bad.

If you are thinking of conducting an exit interview, here are some ideas for you.

When should the exit interview be held?

A day or two before the employees last day is a good time.  People are more likely to be forthcoming when you remove the  possibility that there could be negative effects from their candor.

Who should conduct the interview?

If the interview is face to face it should be conducted by a trusted member of the staff, not always the manager.  People tend to be more open to someone who is considered a peer or someone who is trained to receive the answers in a non-attached way.  Managers are attached because the answers given reflect the team they manage and perhaps themselves.  If you really want to get to the meat, use a trusted staff member to intake the information and share it with you at a suitable time.  If the manager is the only option, then the attitude must be conveyed that no feelings will be hurt and that honest answers are appreciated.  Remind them that this will burn no bridges and won’t change the positive reference that you will give them in the future (people worry about their reference and will bite their tongue to keep it protected).

How to conduct the interview?

The interview can be done in any way you think will be most effective.  Two popular ways are verbal and written.  With a verbal interview, make sure that the atmosphere you choose is private and comfortable.  If the employee is hardly ever invited into the office, don’t have the interview in the office.   Maybe a sit down at a discreet table in the restaurant will be a better choice to keep your interviewee comfortable.

If the interview is written, provide a private space for them to answer the questions.  Keep distractions to a minimum.  Again, you want them to feel comfortable and relaxed.  This isn’t a test, it’s their opinion which is important.

With a written interview, there are many types of answers that can be asked such as:

  • A list of questions with answer choices already provided
  • True and False
  • Yes and No
  • Ranking questions, i.e. rank from most important to least important.
  • Fill in the blank
  • Open ended questions

Design exit interview questions, written questionnaire or verbal, to be the same questions every time.  Consistency is key.  Everyone should have the opportunity to answer the same questions. Everyone should have the opportunity to help take your restaurant to the next level.

What to read next:  exit interview questionnaire that you can use out of the box or modify to your liking.

Do you conduct exit interviews?  Why or why not?  Tell us below!





  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    • Hey blackhat! I suppose it does seem easy when it is just written out in black and white. Add a few humans to it and it certainly changes the simplicity of it. But I think that even a few questions can reap tons of benefits for any restaurant without making it too involved. Even asking something like “who is the most valuable employee here and why” can tell you who is valuable and possibly some characteristics to emulate. Or, “on a scale of 1-5, 1 being low and 5 being high, how important did your ideas seem to management”? With a follow up of “did you have any ideas? If so, please tell use now”.
      I hope that takes away at least some of the complexity too it! I will be coming out with an exit interview questionnaire that you can use if you are interested. You can take what you like and leave the rest. Thanks for the comment! They are always appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Share an idea or tip
Don't wuss out, you'z my peeps!
About Me