Guide to Alcohol Service During New Year’s Eve

Guide to Alcohol Service During New Year’s Eve

8 Min Read

Here’s how to stay sane and safe during one of your bar’s busiest nights of the year.

In the bar and restaurant industry, New Year’s Eve means big business — people want to eat, drink and be merry, and they’re counting on your establishment to guide them into the new year in style!

Here are some handy tips on how to ensure staff are stress-free, customers have fun and stay safe, and that your business stays booming throughout the night.

Promote your event and drink specials

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is when many people start planning where they’ll go and what they’ll do for the countdown to midnight. Any earlier than this, and potential customers are usually too wrapped up in Christmas-specific celebrations. So as soon as Christmas ends, start promoting your New Year’s Eve party or special deals on social media and other marketing channels. Create a unique drink special to attract revelers to your venue, and let people know what great deals they can expect at your spot.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. As you know, there’s a lot more to alcohol service than pouring drinks. Preparation involves ordering enough champagne and other alcohol well ahead of time. It means getting all the cocktail ingredients you’ll need, and ensuring you have plenty of glassware in stock in case glasses break or you have a bigger crowd than anticipated. The week of, you should be stocking up on fresh garnishes like lime, oranges, mint sprigs and olives.

New Year’s Eve is a perfect time for preparing drinks in batches. You can’t go wrong with a premade punch. When many customers order something easy to make, it speeds up bar service in general and helps things go smoothly. Make a festive drink that you can serve at once over ice, with a simple garnish. You don’t need to ditch your regular drink menu, but having a succinct, special menu is key to New Year’s Eve success.

Batching allows for better consistency in cocktails, faster production and high drinks sales — it’s an all-around win!

Get all hands on deck

Part of the prep involves publishing a staff schedule very early. Give your employees ample time to arrange their schedules around this busy — and profitable — evening.

It may be assumed that more people slotted to work means you’re splitting tips more ways, meaning less money for each person. In reality, the more people working, the smoother things will go — and the more customers will tip. No one wants to hang out in a bar where they can’t get served, or where the staff appear frazzled, stressed out and disorganized. If staff are attentive and the customer feels heard, they’re far more likely to be generous when tipping.

For health and safety reasons, it’s also a good idea to have as many people working as possible so that it’s easier to keep track of customers and how much they’re drinking.

Slot in as many people as are willing to work New Year’s Eve, because many may call in sick or have made other plans, or be traveling out of town. The more staff available, the better.

Ensure staff are trained right

Long before any of the festivities begin, you should ensure staff are properly trained and ready for busy nights. New Year’s Eve is not the time to be coaching new staff — don’t throw recent hires in the deep end.

Your staff should already be equipped with alcohol server and food safety training, and anyone who’s serving drinks should be trained to do so. Being an alcohol server comes with big responsibilities to ensure customers are drinking responsibly, and having the right training is integral for such a busy and festive time as New Year’s Eve. Make sure alcohol servers are prepared by ensuring they have their Alcohol Server Training.

Hold a pre-shift meeting

You may want to request that staff show up early so you can collectively go over how things will play out as the crowds enter. In this meeting, you can make it clear who’s doing what, assign duties and encourage staff to work together to provide the best service possible.

Divide and conquer with tasks. Some should focus on garnishes, some on glassware, some on pre-chilling wine and beer, and so on. Maybe you want to offer guests hats and noisemakers, and a complimentary glass of champagne at midnight — who is actually handing out these items, and when? Break the steps of service down into smaller portions, and add people anywhere you envision you may need them. For example, you may normally have one or two hosts greeting people and showing them to their table. For New Year’s Eve, you may want to double those numbers so each person can focus on delivering excellent service to customers.

Allow staff to ask questions and raise concerns in an open forum. This pre-shift meeting is also an opportunity to thank your loyal staff for their hard work and dedication!

Check IDs consistently

This is tough during a busy time, so it’s recommended that you have security staff or bouncers on shift for the sole purpose of checking identification and either refusing entry to anyone under the age of 21, or checking to make sure minors are not attempting to order drinks. Be firm on this — in a large group of customers, watch to make sure no one is pouring drinks for underage guests. Check everyone’s ID to be safe, and know how to spot the signs of a fake ID.

How to check an ID’s validity:

  • Compare the photo on the card to the person standing in front of you. Are their facial features, such as the shape of their nose or chin, the same?
  • Check the card’s rigidity. A fake ID will often feel different in weight or stiffness compared to a real ID.
  • Check the card’s edges. A real ID has rounded edges; if it’s square, it may have a false front.
  • Feel the front and back of the ID. Ensure there are no bumps, bulges, pinholes or other irregularities.
  • Do a visual inspection of the ID. Make sure the back of the ID is not blank, and that all security features, like holograms, are present. The photo should not be tilted or appear altered in any way.

When in doubt, ask for another form of identification. If they can’t provide a valid ID, you must refuse service.

Know when to stop service

Stay vigilant and watch out for people becoming dangerously drunk. It may be tough to count drinks on such a hectic evening, but you and staff should already know how to spot the signs of intoxication, and be able to recognize when someone has hit their limit.

Common signs that someone is overly intoxicated:

  • bloodshot or drooping eyes
  • incoherent speech or slurring words
  • staggering or stumbling, swaying or bumping into things
  • difficulty counting money or fumbling change
  • dropping or spilling drinks
  • overly friendly or loud speech and behavior
  • drowsiness, or falling asleep at the table
  • disorderly, rude or aggressive behavior

If a customer becomes aggressive, hostile or violent, you should call the police.

New Year’s Eve is a notoriously boozy holiday, and people will inevitably celebrate with too many drinks. You want their experience of your establishment to be a positive one, though, so cut people off before they have the chance to do something they’ll regret, or endanger themselves or others.

Plan for Uber, Lyft, cab or designated driver service rides

Most major American cities have rideshare service apps like Uber and Lyft — these are perfect options for an intoxicated customer who needs to get home safe and sound. Taxis are another good choice, so your establishment should have a list of taxi phone numbers for customers or staff to call close to the end of the night.

Many jurisdictions also offer designated driver services — businesses dedicated to getting customers home safely and preventing drunk driving. Have all these options ready, and ensure staff know where the numbers are located. Staff have a responsibility to ensure no one drives drunk, so this needs to be a top priority.

Have fun!

You and your staff should be participants in — not just observers or facilitators of — the fun, festive vibe. If customers see that staff are enjoying themselves, they’ll feel they’ve made the right choice in your venue for this special occasion.

Treat staff right — if they’re sacrificing New Year’s Eve with their friends and family to work for you, show them your appreciation by providing them an indulgent meal, and by doing what you can to increase the festive spirit and make staff feel they’re part of the celebration.

Before the ball drops and “Auld Lang Syne” is sung, get ready for a safe and happy new year with these tips!

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