Stopping service be uncomfortable. Use these tips to help maintain a safe environment for everyone involved.
It’s your responsibility as an alcohol server or bartender to stop service when your customer has become intoxicated. But we know that stopping service can sometimes lead to uncomfortable and even dangerous situations. High levels of intoxication can impair a person’s judgement, potentially resulting in aggressive and violent reactions.
Ensuring your customers are enjoying alcohol responsibly is part of your job — but remember that your safety is important too! Follow these proven techniques to keep your safety a top priority when stopping service, while still being firm and assertive in your decision.
1. Let your co-workers know
The first step is to make sure your co-workers, including other bartenders, hosts, security and managers, know when you’re stopping service to a particular customer. This way, a colleague can be close by and step in if you need further assistance. This also ensures that your whole team knows not to continue serving the intoxicated person if there is a shift change or you go on break.
2. Don’t surprise your customer
A customer could get upset if you tell them they can no longer order more drinks before they’re aware that they’re having their final drink. This may lead to a difficult situation that could quickly escalate.
Tell your customer that you are stopping service when they’re ordering their next drink, and let them know that it’s the last one you will be serving them.
3. Ask their group for help
If the customer is with friends or family, this group may be able to help convince the customer to stop ordering more drinks. Since they know your customer personally, they might also be able to calm them down if they start to get upset.
To avoid escalating the situation, it’s best to ask friends and family for help when the intoxicated person has stepped away from the group.
4. Be professional and polite when telling your customer
High levels of intoxication can affect a person’s behavior and even cause them to become irrational and violent. When letting your customer know that you are stopping service, stay professional and polite and be aware of your body language. Frowning or staring could be interpreted as judgment, which could escalate the situation.
Remain calm even if your customer isn’t, and don’t take any negative reaction personally.
5. Offer food and non-alcoholic drinks as an alternative
Having food, particularly high-protein and fatty foods, digesting in the stomach and intestines can help slow down the body’s alcohol absorption rate. While eating food won’t help the person sober up quicker, it can at least help delay the effects of alcohol.
Providing non-alcoholic drinks as an alternative can also be helpful. If the customer is there with friends, still having something to drink may help them feel like they’re still part of the group.
Additional behavioral cues to keep in mind
It’s important to remember that your physical and behavioral cues could be misinterpreted. Avoid escalating the situation by keeping these tips in mind:
- Speak in a calm manner and give clear reasons for your decision.
- Don’t overreact, even if your customer isn’t staying calm.
- Be assertive and firm — once you’ve made the decision to stop service, it becomes non-negotiable.
- Be courteous and discreet — the goal is not to embarrass your customer or create unnecessary attention.
Are there more steps to take after stopping service?
Stopping service is an important step in ensuring the safety of your customers, but it doesn’t always end there. These are additional steps you might have to take after stopping alcohol service to a customer:
- If a customer becomes violent, call the police for assistance. Your safety, along with the rest of the staff and customers, is top priority.
- Ensure that they have a designated driver. Offer to call a friend, cab or designated driver program.
Remember to document the incident in your business’s log book. Keep records for situations like refusal of service, seizure of fake IDs, stopping service, injuries or medical situations, as well as illegal or violent incidents. Include specific details like the date, time, description of the incident and steps taken to handle it. You should also follow any additional processes your business may have in place for these types of incidents.
Keeping these records updated, reviewing company policies and maintaining constant communication with your team will help foster a business culture that prioritizes the responsible service of alcohol and the safety of both staff and customers.
Get the tools you need to responsibly serve alcohol to customers by getting your Alcohol Server Certificate. Userve’s Alcohol Server Training Programs include resources for you to understand how alcohol affects the body, the laws and regulations related to alcohol service and even more tips for maintaining a safe environment for your team and customers.