How to handle a drunk guest

How to handle a drunk guest


We recently had a guest drink too much and I didn’t notice that she was intoxicated until she stood up to leave. I called her a cab and in the mean time she insisted on going to her car and driving home. I know what I could have done to prevent over-serving (and I’m kicking myself and retraining her server) but should I have restrained her or otherwise forcibly prevented her from getting in her car? I tried to talk her out of it but it didn’t work.

– Fine Dining Restaurant Manager


Of course your big mistake was over-serving and a good responsible alcohol service program like TIPS or ServSafe Alcohol will give you and your staff some tools like counting drinks and observing signs of change to gauge your service.

That said, in places where alcohol is served, people can become intoxicated, leaving you both civilly and criminally vulnerable if, in fact, you over-served or served an already intoxicated guest.  Factors like age, medications, and size of the guest can exacerbate the affects of alcohol.

The guideline from ServSafe Alcohol is, “Whatever you do, never use physical force to try to stop the guest.” Doing so could create bigger problems like allegations of assault, putting yourself or an employee at risk from a violent and impaired guest, or an escalating fight.

Try to convince the guest to give you her keys and put her in a cab, even if it’s at your expense. If the guest insists on driving, indicate that you will be obligated to inform the police and then do just that, communicating the license plate number, make and model of the car and the direction of travel. Be sure to keep a good internal incident report.

And, as always, the best solution is to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. More on crisis management here.

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