8 Tips for Responsibly Serving Alcohol

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 2.30.38 PM(Source: Flickr)


In a restaurant setting, alcohol is in many ways a good thing: a high-profit, trend-proof commodity which is easy and quick to prepare. Add to that the fact that it makes customers happy and likely to spend more money, and it’s practically a dream come true to your menu and your bottom line.


However, the fact is that alcohol also has intoxicating and addictive qualities, and therefore requires care and attention when being served. As a restaurant, the staff has a responsibility to make sure that the customers are enjoying alcohol in moderation. This is not only for the atmosphere of the restaurant, but for the safety of both the customer and others once they leave your establishment. Here, we will discuss some tips for how to serve alcohol responsibly in your establishment.



  • Train your staff. Proper training of your employees can help your establishment proactively avoid a lot of alcohol-related issues that could potentially occur. For bartenders, this is particularly important, but don’t overlook the importance of training for servers, too. Proper training is a huge part of creating a well-heeled, professional staff.

    Many restaurants will require employees to complete an alcohol serving program before working for you, because then they will be educated on best policies and conduct as well as safety. Whether or not you assist with the cost of this training or provide it for employees is up to you.
  • Have policies in place. Having specific policies in place when it comes to alcohol can help your employees solve potential problems with grace. For instance, if a customer tries to order two drinks at one time and an employee suspects one is for a minor, they can ask to see both IDs. Or if a restaurant is worried that a customer is ordering alcohol too rapidly, there can be a policy that one drink must be completed and cleared before a second one is ordered, or even a limit on drinks per visit to the establishment. Putting policies in place is not difficult, but it can have great benefits, particularly in that it can help employees handle issues with authority.
  • Check IDs. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this tip: you simply must check IDs of customers ordering alcohol. Unless it’s extremely apparent that a customer is over the legal drinking age, it’s best to veer on the side of caution and ask. As a benefit, many clients will feel flattered that you ask!

    Be sure to train employees to check IDs to ensure that drinkers are of age, and to stress the importance of this action. This is not only for the safety of minors, but for the safety and smooth sailing of your restaurant. If you are caught serving minors, you can face fees that reach into the thousands of dollars. Plus, do you really want to be known as the place that serves underage drinkers? Wouldn’t you rather be known for your creative specials or unique restaurant concept?
  • Measure alcohol before mixing drinks. Some argue that measuring out liquor for mixed drinks is stingy, but unless your bartender is very consistent, it can be very helpful in ensuring that your drinks are of even strength. For instance, if a customer orders one drink and feels that a second would be fine but the next one is far stronger, it can be easy to underestimate how intoxicated they are. Maintaining a level of consistency can help avoid alcohol-related issues in your establishment.
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  • Know when to say “when”. It’s important that not only bartenders but servers are very watchful and know when to say “when” to customers. If they are slurring words and not walking straight, for instance, these are pretty good indications that the customer has had a little too much and should be turned off from ordering further drinks. But sometimes it is harder to tell. Part of this is learned by experience, and part can be learned in an alcohol handling program as mentioned in the first tip of this article. But it’s important for the staff serving alcohol to be very attentive to when it might be time to cut off a customer.
  • Do not serve visibly intoxicated customers. If a customer stumbles into your restaurant and bellies up to the bar looking like they have already indulged in excess, it is your right to turn down service. Sure, they might get upset, but an unhappy customer is far easier to deal with than the possible repercussions of such a customer either starting a fight, causing damage to your restaurant, or driving away even more intoxicated and potentially harming themselves or others. It’s simply not worth letting people become too intoxicated: the risks outweigh any potential bar tab.
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  • Sell alcohol responsibly. Be sure to drill good values into your staff when it comes to responsible sales of alcohol. If they sense that a customer has had too much, they should not try to increase a bill. Make sure that it is very clear that while you want your restaurant to succeed and to be a fun and profitable place, overdoing it with alcohol is simply not the way to do it.
    Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 2.31.19 PM(Source: Flickr)  
  • Have a taxi service on speed dial. Even with all of the best responsibility practices in place and the best trained employees, someone is going to overindulge every now and again. Be sure that you can do your part to ensure their safety (and that of everyone else on the road!) by having a taxi service on speed dial at your restaurant. It’s worth having their car stuck in your lot overnight if it means that you are maintaining public safety.



Conclusion: Alcohol can be a great way to increase your restaurant’s sales, but serving it comes with a great deal of responsibility. Be sure to follow these tips to ensure that your restaurant is successful and your customers and employees remain safe while serving alcohol!
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