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The Importance of Responsible Service

April 18, 2011 By: Alissa Ponchione

Applebee’s and Olive Garden are not having the best month.

Recently, two toddlers mistakenly were served alcohol at restaurants in Michigan and Florida.

In Detroit, a 15-month-old boy was served alcohol mixed with his apple juice. Police said it was an accident caused by a mislabeled bottle behind the bar. Meanwhile, a 2-year-old boy was served sangria instead of orange juice at a Florida Olive Garden.

At Nightclub & Bar, we’re always discussing the importance of responsible service, proper staff training and policy procedure to ensure liabilities like this are avoided.

Although these types of incidents are very rare, you still should review and reevaluate your own beverage policy, making sure your managers and staff understand the preventative measures they should take to avoid errors in the future.

Olive Garden acted quickly. Previously, the sangria was made in batches and kept in pitchers; now, the chain will make the beverages individually to order.

Applebee’s also took action by updating its processes and policies. Apple juice now will be poured from single-serve containers at the table. What’s more, Applebee’s also is retraining all of its servers on its beverage policy, emphasizing the importance of storing alcohol and alcohol-free beverages in separate and identifiable containers.

Stephen Barth, founder of HospitalityLawyer.com and the Hospitality Law Conference, is an expert on hospitality legal and regulatory issues. He said the most important thing in instances like this is to “treat the people involved with sensitivity and kindness.” However, operators should notify their insurance carriers immediately after this type of situation occurs.

From there, it’s important to conduct a thorough investigation, so you’re not “only trying to discover what happened in this set of circumstances, but you’re trying to discover the root cause, and how you can improve the entire process so it doesn’t happen again,” Barth explains.

Barth also advises updating policies, conducting new training and testing staff, while taking more tangible measures, such as creating storage and control programs.

Applebee’s and Olive Garden, both responsible operators, are on the right track, taking the proper measures to ensure accidents like this don’t happen in the future.

These unfortunate mishaps shed light on the importance of having proper staff training, a meticulous beverage policy and a smart, proactive plan when things go wrong, as they often do. With accidents of this caliber, we should look beyond pointing fingers and figure out a way to make sure these preventable incidents become an impossibility.

Check out Barth’s “The First 15 Minutes After An Accident” to learn the measures you should take if you’re ever in a similar situation.


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