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Bartender Question: How do I Cut a Customer Off?

In the bartending industry, certified bartenders may find themselves facing rowdy customers who have had a little too much to drink. Knowing the signs of over-intoxication, and when to say no are part of responsible server training. America’s Alcohol Certified Education Association asked bartending pro Jeffrey Morgenthaler how to cut someone off - on the subject, he says, "Telling someone “No more” can lead to an uncomfortable situation. So that’s why I now try to approach the denial of alcohol from a hospitality-centric perspective: I’m the one who helped get you into this mess, and now I’m going to be the one who helps you get out of it – a bartender in every sense of the word." Some of the best methods for cutting unruly customers fall into the category of simply caring for your customer. You want them to continue to come back for a long time to come, which means that in no condition should they get in their car while inebriated. Jeffrey suggests simply explaining this to them - and then by suggesting food, soft drinks, water or coffee to over-inebriated guests, you keep them in a safe place, while giving them a little bit more time to sober up. The next step after diffusing the situation is to alert the rest of your crew, so that nobody continues to over-serve your guest. Bartenders who seem caring, who de-escalate the situation, and who offer to help clients seem to have the best results when cutting off customers. Many of Jeffrey's very smart readers also provided insight on this bartending conundrum. One reader mentioned "actively managing" your clientele. Heath says: "When I probably have had too much, bartenders often take far longer to come back to ask for my next drink than they usually do, or they forget the drinks I’ve ordered, or introduce me to someone who’s about to go have a cigarette. I appreciate these measures that let me save face (and sometimes not even notice that it’s happening), while having the same effect of keeping me from having far too much more to drink." One clever commenter mentioned a game she created to cut off inebriated customers. Cheryl says: "I had to come up with something creative. It’s my bartender nature to always bring humor into as much of life as possible, so I went out and bought an Operation game. I used the game for guests I felt should be cut-off. I’d pull it out with a big smile and tell the drunken soul that I would strike a deal with them. The rules were simple. Get all the bones out without the red buzzer nose going off and I’d serve them another drink. The game on the bartop was a magnet of fun and as you might have guessed, a big hit. The people that loved it the best were the local cops. They called it my sobriety test." By keeping your cool and being discrete about cutting someone off, you encourage your customers to continue returning to your establishment. Not only that - you diffuse potentially unsafe situations. AACEA's certified bartenders gain valuable experience like cutting off inebriated customers at our mandatory alcohol server training classes. We provide online alcohol server training, while promoting responsible service and sales of alcohol. To get your servers permit, visit www.aacea.com.

Bartending Icons: Reggie St. Paul

As time passes, drinks change, styles change, tastes change, but one thing that never changes is the service that bartenders give their customers. Licensed bartenders through the ages - such as Reggie St. Paul - have always had to focus on responsible alcohol service. A bartender for more than 40 years, Reggie St. Paul of Cambridge, MA has poured drinks for celebrities like Miles Davis and St. Louis Cardinals Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson.

St. Paul has watched people change, times change, and consumer tastes change over his bartending career. A former school teacher, who's served tens of thousands of customers, St. Paul says he still enjoys coming to work at The Blue Room’s ash bar in Kendall Square.

“I know every day is going to be different,’’ says St. Paul, “And I like it because I work with people who are young.’’

An article on Boston.com notes:

Through the decades, he has watched drinkers rediscover cocktails and seen smoke-filled rooms consigned to the ashtray of history.

... He remembers when drinking was serious stuff, when tastes were dramatically different, and a bar could go through eight to 10 bottles of whiskey and bourbon a night, compared with only one bottle of gin and one bottle of vodka.

Drinking habits have changed dramatically since then, often circling back to decades-old tendencies. Cocktails are popular once more, wine is nearly a given, and bartenders must learn or reacquaint themselves with the mechanics of an intricately mixed drink.

“We’re doing cocktails of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s,’’ St. Paul says. “It’s become exciting.’’ One big difference, he says, is that “to some people now, the glass is more important than what’s in it.’’

But some things never change for bartenders, including their interaction with customers, the social psychology they develop, and their ability to defuse potential confrontations. And then there are the physical demands.

At America's Alcohol Certified Education Association, we tip our hats to certified bartenders like Reggie St. Paul, who continue to provide responsible alcohol sales and excellent customer service.

AACEA provides alcohol server training that promotes responsible alcohol sales and service. For more information on Washington alcohol certification and bartender licensing, or to take your class from the comfort of your home visit www.aacea.com.

Drunk Facebooking: A Serious Issue

Part of being a responsible alcohol server is to make sure you're not over-serving, or serving alcohol to minors. This includes checking ID, and verifying acceptable ID, and knowing when to say no to over-intoxicated customers. One recent study shows that underage drinking or problem drinking - which are both very serious problems - can also possibly be curbed through Facebook. A recent study found that college-age students who frequently posted photos or status updates about being drunk were more likely to experience alcohol related problems - showing that they either drank too much or drank in unhealthy situations. Amid concerns of privacy violations, schools and universities have discussed this finding - especially since the research could help schools identify students who may need counseling through alcohol-related situations. A Reuters Article on the subject says:
Dr. Megan Moreno from the University of Wisconsin-Madison led a team of researchers from her university and the University of Washington in Seattle who surveyed the Facebook pages, including photos and posts, of 224 undergrads with publicly-available profiles. About two-thirds of those students had no references to alcohol or drinking on their pages. The rest of the pages mentioned or had pictures of social, non-problematic drinking or more serious and risky alcohol use, including riding in a car while drunk or getting in trouble related to drinking. The researchers brought all the students in for a 10-question screening test used to determine who is at risk for problem drinking. That test assesses the frequency of drinking and binge drinking as well as negative consequences from alcohol use. Close to six in ten of the students whose Facebook pages had references to drunkenness and other dangerous drinking scored above the cutoff showing a risk for alcohol abuse and dependence, as well as other drinking-related problems. That compared to 38 percent of students who had more minor references to alcohol and 23 percent of those who didn't mention alcohol or drinking at all, according to findings published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. In addition, close to one in five Facebook-implicated risky drinkers said they had an alcohol-related injury in the previous year.
Moreno and her colleagues theorized that this kind of Facebook "evidence" could be used as a red-flag, where school residential assistants and counselors could either talk with the student or the student's parents. However, as Dr. James Niels Rosenquist, a social media researcher and psychiatrist from Massachusetts General Hospital stated, this kind of information only shows a very small snapshot into a person's life - and it may not be enough evidence to show who may need to be screened for alcohol related issues. One way to help curb underage drinking is to require any person serving alcohol to go through alcohol server training. If you need your mandatory alcohol server training, or server permit, visit www.aacea.com. We offer a full range of classes to help you learn how to become a better bartender and how to be a responsible server.

How Privatization of Alcohol Could Affect Washington State

If you are a Washington state resident and a registered voter (and even if you aren't), you have probably heard about initiative 1183 regarding privatization of the state alcohol system, passed last Tuesday. For those in the hospitality industry, it is important to stay informed on measures that affect how we do business. That's why we've been keeping tabs on the discussion on initiative 1183 and how it could affect the alcohol industry in Washington. The campaign for initiative 1183 was one of the most expensive campaigns in state history and there are a lot of issues on the line. On the initiative, a Huffington Post article writes:
"...Dubbed the 'Costco initiative' [this bill will] end state-run liquor stores in [Washington]. Sales in the state are currently only through stores run by the state's Liquor Control Board, a Prohibition-era policy. ...The new law would allow any store over 10,000 square feet to sell alcohol, along with continuing to allow the small contract stores under the current system to sell.... Convenience stores and gas stations would not be able to sell alcohol, however..."
The Moderate voice provided an interesting view on the subject, saying:
"The initiative would take Washington state out of both the distribution and retail sales business.... Washington state buys liquor from the source (or its representative), manages a central distribution warehouse, and sells liquor (and wine) in both state-run and contract liquor stores. Most of the public angst about I-1183 relates to retail sales, although the primary money behind the “vote no” campaign [was] from distributors, the middlemen in this deal... ...The most thorough examination of data over time (1950-2000), determined that 'Privatization had a significant permanent effect on the sale of spirits, but the effect was not large enough to affect total sales' and 'There was no significant effect on the number of fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents.'"
State-run liquor store employees, however, have cause to be concerned, as state-run liquor stores have 680 full-time employees and 714 hourly employees, who will no longer be employed by Washington state-run liquor stores after June 1. The new initiative also means layoffs for shipping companies like Kent-based Pozzi Trucking. They are one of four shipping companies delivering liquor to state stores. At AACEA, we’re committed to bringing you news on issues like these in the hospitality and beverage industry. AACEA provides online alcohol server training and bartending certification classes. To get your mandatory alcohol server training certificate today vist www.aacea.com. Each month, AACEA raffles off $100 to one of our MAST students - sign up today and be eligible to win.

Increased Menu Prices Could Mean More Money In Your Pocket

Restaurants may begin increasing menu prices next year without the fear of losing customers accustomed to deals and discounts, according to a recent report from Jeff Omohundro, a senior securities analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows inflation for food at home and dining out approaching the same rates. “With the rate of inflation for food at home increasing in recent months to 1.4 percent, in line with food away from home, we think restaurants may be better positioned to pass along menu price increases to consumers,” he said. We all know that increased menu prices leads to higher check averages, which leads to an increase in tips. Continuing to provide excellent service is key to taking advantage of increased menu prices. Add in an alcoholic beverage up sell and you are on your way! We all know the importance of server training in order to learn about responsible alcohol service. In order to get your bartending license or alcohol servers permit in Washington you must have an alcohol server permit. You can now take this class online at http://www.aacea.com. Len Riggs continues to offer this fun and informative class on alcohol server training and now from the comfort of your own home!

New Food Service Requirements for Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

While food service violations are not among the most common violations, restaurants should be aware of the food service requirements for their liquor license type.

The WSLCB this fall adopted new food requirements for spirits, beer and wine restaurants. Highlights: * Expanded items that are considered an entrée to include hamburgers, salads, sandwiches, pizza and breakfast items as long as they include a side dish. * Entrees do not include snack items, menu items which consist solely of precooked frozen food that is reheated, or carry-out items obtained from other businesses. * Increased the number of complete meals required from four to eight. A complete meal is an entrée (steak, fish, pasta, etc.) and at least one side dish (soup, vegetables, salad, potatoes, french fries, rice, fruit, and bread). * Restaurants must serve complete meals for five hours a day, five days a week between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Previously, the hours were between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Restaurants having problems meeting their food service requirement should look into the new spirits, beer and wine nightclub liquor license, which is for businesses that primarily provide live entertainment and serve alcohol with main hours between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. The license does not have a food requirement.

Available resources Restaurants should take advantage of the following resources: * Written business policies that describe expectations and how to handle various situations should be developed, and regularly shared with employees. * Mandatory Alcohol Server Training (MAST) is required by law for managers, bartenders and other employees who serve or supervise the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption. * WSLCB Responsible Alcohol and Tobacco Sales classes are offered regularly around the state by WSLCB enforcement officers. Class schedules. * WSLCB website has information on selling responsibly and public safety laws, educational videos and more. * WSLCB enforcement officers are available to help you understand liquor laws. Enforcement Customer Service: (360) 664-9878

In conclusion, restaurants can contribute to public safety and keep their customers safe by carrying out their work in a way that supports Washington's liquor laws.

AACEAprovides alcohol server training which promotes responsible service and sales of alcohol. To get your alcohol servers permit in Washington visit www.aacea.com

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