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’Tis the season to watch alcohol consumption

It’s our most celebratory and emotional time of the year. Are your employees up to speed on safe holiday alcohol service?
new year's eve
Photograph: Shutterstock

The holidays bring an upswing in revenue from alcohol sales, but they also bring some unique situations that require managers and staff to be extra vigilant when it comes to responsible alcohol service. The increase comes both from people drinking more than usual and from people who don’t drink regularly joining holiday festivities.

“Servers need to be aware that people consume alcohol differently during the holidays,” says Jay Lerdal, product manager for the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Alcohol training program. “Some people may not know their limits, so servers need to be extra vigilant about keeping track of drink counts and monitoring guest behavior.”

Lerdal notes that the responsible-alcohol-service techniques servers and bartenders should be trained on—checking IDs, knowing drink strengths and standard pours, counting drinks, handling difficult situations—remain the same, but can require added vigilance during the holiday season.

“Everything escalates and intensifies during the holidays. Everyone on your staff needs to be more aware,” he says.

Parties, catered events require extra care

Many restaurants host holiday parties for large groups at this time of year. These events bring their own set of challenges, including open bars and multiple serving stations.

“When guests are able to obtain drinks from different serving stations, communication becomes very important,” says Lerdal. “Managers, servers, and bartenders need to work together to keep track of drink counts for all partygoers and to monitor changes in a guest’s behavior.”

Limiting the hours when alcoholic beverages are served and providing guests with a limited number of “tickets” that can be redeemed for drinks can help manage alcohol consumption, but these steps are not foolproof—nondrinkers might give their tickets to drinking guests.

Staff members also should follow their operation’s standard carding procedures, even if the company hosting the party says everyone is over 21.

“Your job is to protect your operation, no matter what,” says Lerdal.

Finally, more holiday business often means hiring new employees and shifting current workers to new positions. It’s essential to ensure that everyone receives proper training in responsible alcohol service before they begin serving guests. Online training and preshift huddles to remind staff of key service skills also can keep responsible alcohol service in front of all team members.

The “Serv It Up” holiday campaign provides restaurants with free downloadable assets to promote responsible alcohol service as well as a discount on ServSafe alcohol training throughout the holiday season.

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