Responsible Adult Beverage Service….Who’s Responsible?
Whether we like it or not, responsible adult beverage service has become and will remain a necessary part of your beverage operations. We can argue about the need for it; the costs associated with it; the time allotted for the training of it; and even whether to use an “off the shelf” or “customized” training program to implementation it. All good arguments to have, but the fact remains that all of our hostesses/hosts, servers, bartenders and managers must be trained on how to identify a guest that is, or soon will be, over the limit and needs to be cut off. The tough part has always been who is going to do it and how it’s going to be done.
The who part is simple; it has to be the manager. This duty is above your bartenders’ and servers’ “pay grade” and falls clearly within the managers’ area of responsibility. The manager will of course be relying on the judgment of his/her employees, but if we have trained them all correctly and walked through the program with them, then we can trust their judgment. The key thing here is to back up the staff. If we don’t, they will never bring another situation to us again and we risk never being told of a potential problem until it’s too late. Let them know we will back them up, every time!
So how do we do it? Some will argue that the how depends on whether the guest is a regular or a just-passing-through guest. It’s a shallow argument, though, because we should be handling them exactly the same. The purpose of all this is to protect the guest and others from physical harm and to protect us and our establishments from financial harm. There is no regular worth a life and there is no just-passing-through worth a fine, revocation of our license or the loss of our business. So keep this in mind as we approach the guest to tell them their options. That’s right: tell, don’t discuss, because there is no discussion once we have made the decision to cut someone off. We must be forceful and in command. That does not mean we are bullies or have no compassion, it simply means that we are the managers and we have made the decision.
It is important to emphasize to the guest that we have their best interest at heart.
Example: “John, can I speak with you for a moment?” Guide John away from the bar. “John, we’re concerned about you tonight. It looks like we may have served you one too many. Let’s get you some food, on the house, and some water and a cab so you can come back and be with us again. There is nothing more important to us, John, than your safety and well being. Tell you what: we’ll even pay for the cab.” Use the words we and us, which makes your guest feel like they are part of the team and the decision.
It won’t go this smoothly every time, but it is our responsibility to see that it is done each and every time the situation arises.
Tim Johnson is president of Tim Johnson & Associates, a beverage training, operations, marketing, purchasing and sales consulting firm servicing hospitality and supplier companies. His 30 years of experience in the on-premise industry includes beverage management positions with Houlihan’s, Applebee’s and Champps Entertainment. He is based in Larkspur, Colo. and can be reached at [email protected].