Monday, June 3, 2013

Restaurant Consulting NYC | Risks and Responsibility of Owning and/or Operating a Restaurant Series: Responsibly Selling Alcohol | 4Q Consulting, LLC

Risks and Responsibility of Owning and/or Operating a Restaurant Series:  
Responsibly Selling Alcohol
When you decide to own or operate a restaurant there are inherent risks and responsibilities that you are undertaking.  It is important that you take every measure to minimize these to protect yourself and your employees from possible injury, harm, litigation and financial loss
One of the first decisions you make in planning a restaurant is if you want to apply for a liquor license. The sale of liquor is controlled differently in each state in the US, and often at the local level, under laws referred to as “Dram Shop” law. The process of obtaining a liquor license, and the types of licenses available, differ as well. Your local and state law may influence your decision on the type of liquor service you will have in your restaurant – beer and wine only, full bar, bottle service, or “bring your own”.  It is imperative that you know the laws regarding your legal responsibility in each of these situations.

Your bartenders, and anyone else on your staff that handles and serves alcohol, must be properly trained in how to limit your liability. In some states even, individual servers need to obtain permits to be able to serve alcohol.  

Here are four basic ways to ensure the responsible sale of alcohol:

Check Identification – The first step in serving alcohol responsibly is to eliminate underage drinking; to do so, you must verify age by checking Identification.  It is essential to train your staff on how to check, and what are acceptable forms of ID.

Do Not Over Serve – It is never a good idea to continue to serve inebriated patrons.  It is your right to refuse service to guests who are drunk, whether they arrive drunk or become so at your restaurant.  It seems simple enough to figure out when someone has had one too many, however, some people can hold their liquor very well. If your staff is not properly trained, they may not realize the patron is drunk until it is too late.

Offer Options – Cutting a customer off is never any easy task.  When having to say “no” to alcohol, offering other options such as food and non-alcoholic beverages softens the blow.  This allows the customer to still be served in your restaurant.  Be aware that food and coffee will not sober someone up; the only proven method is time, and keeping the customer in your restaurant allows time to pass. 

Ensure Safe Transit – Do not allow the guest to leave your restaurant drunk if they are driving.  Either be certain another member of their party is able to drive, or offer to call a cab or another ride home for them.  In many instances, by permitting an inebriated customer to leave your establishment, you, your bartenders and servers could be held liable should that individual cause harm in an accident.

A restaurant’s liability in serving alcohol is a very complex matter and these points are only the beginning. Two of the top nationally recognized training programs in this area in the US are TIPS® (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) and ServSafe Alcohol®. Having members of your staff properly trained in this area can prevent situations where you might have potentially significant liability. Additionally you may be able to receive credit on your insurance premiums by having members of your staff certified in these programs. 

The points above, though crucial in protecting your business from potential litigation, are customer service issues at their core. Properly training all of your staff in how to handle difficult situations so that they are not embarrassing for the customers involved has tremendous value in customer loyalty.

Don’t know where to begin?  Ask yourself, do you have the proper procedures and operational guidelines in place to help you be as profitable as possible?  4Q Consulting can develop customized operational guidelines and training programs to meet your needs.  Email us today for a free business consultation at

All original content copyright Noelle E. Ifshin, 2012-2013.


  1. I agree that is it important to gauge how much your customers are drinking and to evaluate and determine the point when you should refuse to continue service. It is very true that sometimes it is not obvious when someone has had too much. It could possibly decrease occurrences DUI arrests. Knowing when to quit serving could not only benefit your business but also the general public.