Awards for quality beverage programs are certainly desirable, but the privilege to serve alcohol brings with it responsibilities as well as potential liabilities, especially when not managed professionally and responsibly.
The work done by numerous restaurant chains to handle these issues, especially training young staffers how to monitor guest consumption, while not often celebrated, deserves attention of the entire industry. And Buffalo Wild Wings, the winner of the 2013 VIBE Vista Operator Award for Best Responsible Alcohol Service Program, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, has consistently worked on improving their compliance and adoption of responsible service guidelines.
Minneapolis-based Buffalo Wild Wings, known for the ultimate sports fan experience combined with casual chicken wing, burger and shareable-based menu and a wide beer selection, must manage responsible service at more than 900 company-owned and franchised restaurants in 49 states and Canada. The company chose the ServSafe Alcohol responsible service training because the program delivers a consistent and holistic message.
As the NRA ServSafe Alcohol website states, “Alcohol service involves many risks. Failure to act responsibly could result in fines, imprisonment, losing your liquor license, increased insurance costs, or losing your business.”
In 2005, Buffalo Wild Wings began implementing the ServSafe training program, and within a year certified all directors, regional managers, franchise consultants and the executive leadership team. Based on this immediate success of the program, in 2007, the company began training all managers and staff.
Alcohol service training starts as soon as a new front-of-house team member is hired, including servers and bartenders as well as greeters and cashiers. In addition to ServSafe Alcohol training, unit managers highlight awareness by discussing alcohol safety at pre-shift meetings in order to reinforce the importance of safe alcohol service and to monitor service continually throughout their shifts.
After adopting ServSafe, Buffalo Wild Wings began a tracking and reporting system that pinpointed every restaurant’s performance - currently, the chain’s units are required to maintain a 95 percent compliance rate.
Restaurants that take on ServSafe have a variety of options: students choose from two exams when registering for a course. The ServSafe Alcohol Primary Exam tests basic understanding, while the ServSafe Alcohol Advanced Proctored Exam tests proficiency in key concepts. Training and exams formats exist in online and classroom formats, and classroom training and examination is available in English and Spanish. (Currently, online training and examination is only available in English.)