Serving alcohol brings with it a lot of responsibility. Whether you operate a sports bar, pub, a fine-dine place, or even a casual dining restaurant, when serving alcohol, you must ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for your guests. To achieve this, having an alcohol awareness training program for all your staff is extremely important. For restaurants alcohol serving and sales significantly contributes to overall revenue and profits. To attract more customers, alcohol serving restaurants often run promotions such as happy hours and ladies night. These promotional campaigns help boost alcohol sales, but restaurant owners must ensure every guest drinks responsibly.
- What is an alcohol awareness training program?
- Why is alcohol awareness training necessary?
- Who should be trained?
- Implementing alcohol awareness training program
Understanding alcohol awareness training program
The intent of the alcohol awareness training program is to educate all restaurant staff about local alcohol laws and safe alcohol serving techniques. The end goal is to ensure that all restaurant staff (servers, bartenders, managers, or anyone handling alcohol serving) has the knowledge to sell and serve alcohol in a responsible way and within the legally defined regulations. The laws related to serving alcohol vary from one state to another. However, most states across the U.S. require an establishment to obtain a license or certification for legally selling or serving alcohol. All alcohol awareness training programs educate restaurant employees about:
- Specific laws that regulate selling or serving alcohol pertaining to a particular state/city.
- Guidelines and laws to handle minors and intoxicated people.
- Laws regulating sale of alcohol to non-members of a private club.
- Ways in which alcohol can impact consumers.
- Steps to check IDs in order to prevent sale of alcohol to minors.
- How to refuse the sale of alcohol.
- When to refuse the sale of alcohol.
- Safeguard self and employers from any liability.
Basic ground rules to follow
- Not selling alcohol to minors: As a responsible server make sure not to serve alcohol to guests who are below 21 years. If you are an employee tasked with selling alcohol make sure to check IDs and also get trained on how to spot fake IDs. Instead of judging or making guesses about a customer demanding or ordering alcohol, it is a good practice to card everyone regardless of how old they look. As restaurant owners get mystery shoppers from time to time to check whether servers and bartenders are checking IDs before serving alcohol to any customer.
- Be vigilant with guests accompanied by old teens: Be extra vigilant when serving guests who are with older teens. Young adults may sneak in old teens with them, purchase alcohol and then pour it into their soda. If you have any doubt that a guest is buying alcohol and intoxicating a minor, involve your supervisor and tactfully refuse the sale.
- Do not sell alcohol to an intoxicated person: Serving alcohol to a guest who is intoxicated is a legal offence. Also, if a guest comes in sober and becomes intoxicated after having a couple of drinks it could land you and the entire restaurant in serious legal trouble. It is therefore important for a server/bartender to keep track of the number of drinks a guest has ordered and consumed over time. Alcohol awareness training helps servers recognize the most common signs of intoxication.
- Be a responsible seller, refuse sale when in doubt: Refusing your guests what they are asking for may seem to go against delivering a good customer experience when we think of restaurants. But, when we think about alcohol sales, refusing a sale may just be your best bet at times. An intoxicated person may get rowdy, damage restaurant property, harm themselves or someone else. Serving a minor may attract severe legal consequences for your business and the staff serving the offender. It is best to refuse sales when in doubt.
Why is alcohol awareness training program necessary?
Over-serving or serving a minor or already intoxicated guest, can result in risk encountering legal repercussions for a restaurant such as:
- Huge fines
- Suspension or revoking of liquor license
- Suspension or revoking of food service license
- Suspension or revoking of business license
- The forced closure of your establishment (restaurant/ bar/ liquor shop)
To avoid such situations most states across the US have voluntary or mandatory alcohol seller-server training requirements. Alcohol awareness training programs familiarize and educate your staff to the concept of responsible alcohol consumption, offer tips and tricks for protecting guests, and educates employees on safeguarding their own and their employers business interests. These trainings are designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking, and drunk driving by enhancing the people skills of servers, employees, and consumers of alcohol. The program provides your staff with the knowledge and confidence to recognize alcohol-related problems and prepares them with techniques to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.
Who should be trained?
Any individual who serves alcohol or works in a licensed establishment should participate in the alcohol awareness training program, duly complete it and get their certification. These include:
- Bar Backs
- Establishment owners
Many states have now made alcohol awareness training and certification mandatory. However, every state has its own laws around alcohol serving. It will be a smart idea to check with your local liquor control board to find out which training is mandatory and which one is optional in your state.
Implementing alcohol awareness training program in your restaurant
There are a plethora of both online and offline (in-person workshop) alcohol awareness training available which are tailored as per a city’s or state's legal requirements. As a restaurant owner you have the option to conduct an on-site alcohol awareness training once a year. This is a small step towards ensuring that your staff is complying with the local alcohol serving protocol. You could also hire employees who have already taken training and are certified by your local restaurant association. Assigning a buddy to new employees or shadow training is also a great way to train your new staff.
Most important is to reassure your staff that you trust their judgment and will support them in instances where they refuse to serve a customer when necessary. Train them to spot signs of intoxication, and give them the freedom to intervene as and when required. There are a few clear signs of intoxication and guests exhibiting such behaviour should strictly not be served.
The way forward
Having your staff trained on alcohol service contributes significantly in expanding and creating a positive impact about your restaurant. Such staff not only prevents rowdy customers from ruining the dining experience for anyone visiting your restaurant, they also contribute towards keeping your customers and community safe. A well trained staff can quickly identify when to stop or tactfully refuse serving alcohol to an intoxicated customer. They can avoid unpleasant incidents and accidents by stopping an intoxicated customer from driving while under the influence or stop a guest from excess drinking and risk hurting themselves or another person. Alcohol awareness training programs help minimize alcohol-related harm and promote public health, safety, and well-being.