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Stand-Up Training: How to Sell and Serve Alcohol Responsibly

Empower Employees Through Food Safety Training

Alcohol servers and sellers play an important role in keeping their customers safe. How and when should servers and sellers slow or refuse alcohol to customers?

Learning Objectives

You may choose to read these learning objectives with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

After this training, employees will be able to:

  • Explain when it is illegal to serve or sell alcohol to a customer
  • Recognize signs that a customer may be underage or intoxicated
  • Choose effective techniques for slowing alcohol service
  • Demonstrate respectful ways to refuse alcohol service or sales to a customer

The Facts

You may choose to read these facts with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

  • It is illegal to serve or sell alcohol to people who are under 21 years of age. Check customers’ ID if there is any possibility that they may be underage. Make sure customers use a valid government-issued photo ID. Do not accept IDs with signs of tampering.
  • It is illegal to serve or sell alcohol to people who are intoxicated. Most states define intoxication as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. It is also illegal for people to drive with a BAC at or above this limit.
  • To avoid serving or selling alcohol to intoxicated customers, keep track of how many alcoholic drinks you serve to them. Also watch for common signs of intoxication.
  • It’s best to slow alcohol service before someone becomes intoxicated rather than to cut it off after. Use techniques like offering food or non-alcoholic drinks and passing a table less often.
  • Use respectful language when refusing alcohol service or sales. It may help to explain your reasons in terms of your own situation rather than the customer’s. For example, it’s better to say, “It’s against the law for me to overserve alcohol,” than “You’re already drunk.”

Training Activities

Choose the activities that will be most beneficial for your employees. Modify them as needed to fit the training needs of your establishment.

Legal Hours of Sale

Explain: Legal hours of sale are legal requirements for when a business can or cannot sell alcohol.

Discuss: Are there any laws in your area that establish legal hours of sale for alcohol? If there are, be prepared to explain them. Give employees an opportunity to ask any questions they may have.

Guess My Age Challenge

Ask: Have you ever been surprised to learn a person’s age? Invite your staff to share an experience, or share a relevant experience of your own.

Discuss: What are some signs that a person may be under 21? Are there any behaviors or characteristics that are typical of minors? What are some signs that an ID is invalid?

For the last question, make sure your employees mention these signs: bumps or holes in the surface of the ID and inconsistent font, format, or quality.

Teach: If you have any resources to check IDs for age and validity, go over them with your staff.

Challenge: Ask for volunteers to have coworkers guess how old they are, or use StateFoodSafety’s online Guess My Age activity. Discuss the accuracy of the team’s guesses. Emphasize the importance of checking customers’ ID rather than relying entirely on appearances.

Display (optional): Hang the Caterpillar ID cartoon as a friendly reminder for employees to check customers’ ID.

Recognizing Intoxicated Customers

Discuss: How can you tell that a customer is intoxicated? Invite staff members to share their tricks for deciding when a customer has had enough to drink.

Teach: If they weren’t mentioned in the discussion, teach your employees the common signs of intoxication: slurred speech, clumsiness, drowsiness, dizziness, bloodshot eyes, confusion, and exaggerated emotions. Answer any questions that your staff may have about recognizing intoxicated customers.

Display (optional): Post a BAC table in your establishment to help servers tell when a customer may be approaching intoxication.

Slowing and Refusing Service Role-play

Discuss: When is it appropriate to slow service, and when do you need to refuse service or sales altogether?

Demonstrate: Break the team into pairs and ask them to prepare a role-play to show ways to slow or stop alcohol service and sales. One partner will be a customer who is either at or approaching intoxication. The other partner will play the server. Watch each role-play as a group and discuss the techniques shown. Offer tips for improvement when necessary.

Following Up

Encourage employees to come to you when they are unsure about a serving situation or sale. Praise employees who make safe serving and sales decisions. Offer thoughtful feedback when you see a situation that could have gone better. Encourage employees to work together and keep each other informed of any important serving decisions.

It’s a good idea to keep a record of all important serving or selling decisions. Employees should document any time that they refuse service or sales to a customer, whether it’s to an intoxicated customer or to a minor. Receipts and drink counting records may be helpful supporting documentation.

In the records, employees should identify the customer(s) involved as accurately as possible. They should describe the incident and actions they took in response. That way, if law enforcement ever investigates your establishment, you’re more likely to have proof of your responsible business practices.

As needed, review this training with your employees.

Training Resources

Use the Guess My Age activity to emphasize the importance of checking customers’ ID.

The Caterpillar ID cartoon reminds staff members to compare customers’ appearance to their photo IDs.

The BAC Table is a valuable reference for employees as they count drinks and estimate a customer’s level of intoxication.

Employees can also use our online alcohol service certification course to learn everything they need to know to serve alcohol responsibly. (Note: if you can’t find your state in the dropdown menu, that means our alcohol course is not yet approved there. We’re continually working to get approved in new locations.)

Did you use this stand-up training in your establishment? We’d love to get your feedback! Take a minute to do our feedback survey.

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— Katie Heil

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