Are Your Safe Beverage Service Policies Working? If Not, It Could Cost You

A recent news story regarding the accidental service of an alcoholic beverage to a minor is making waves, and it serves to remind us exactly why alcohol awareness education is so important. A toddler was recently served an alcohol-infused margarita mix in place of apple juice at an Applebee’s restaurant in Michigan, possibly the result of a mislabeled bottle at the bar. You can read the full story on The Detroit News’ website here.

New procedures have been put in place by the company to prevent this type of mistake from happening again, but the damage has already been done. The parents are suing, and there is a monstrous wave of bad publicity for the Applebee’s franchise. Luckily, the child who consumed the beverage and began behaving strangely is OK, but he did register a .10 BAC, more than the legal limit of intoxication for an adult driver. Worth noting and also alarming is that this is the fourth such related incident reported since 2006 for Applebee’s. This is why staff training and alcohol awareness education is so important. There are legal, ethical and moral obligations to keep patrons, of all ages, safe.

Policy changes put into place by Applebee’s include only using apple juice from single-serve containers and retraining staff on beverage pouring policies and procedures. You can read Applebee’s response regarding the event and more about their new procedures here.

As a reminder to all hospitality workers, there are a few common-sense solutions that everyone can use to make sure that patrons are receiving what they ordered, and are being served safely and responsibly.

  1. Store alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages separately, and make sure containers are labeled properly so that bartenders and servers are aware of the contents. A pitcher may look like it contains juice or something else recognizable, but if you aren’t 100% sure of the contents, do not serve it.
  2. Double check that your guests are being served exactly what they ordered. If you deliver beverages to your guests, aside from visually inspecting the glass to make sure that they are receiving their correct beverage choice, you can repeat the beverage name to the patron upon delivery to confirm with them that they are receiving exactly what they ordered. If another staff member delivers beverages to your patrons for you, swing by to make sure the order is correct and they are happy with their beverage.
  3. Always card your guests if they appear to be under 30. Hospitality workers need to be concerned not only with incorrect orders and beverages, but also underage patrons who are trying to illegally obtain alcoholic beverages. To learn more about recognizing a fake or borrowed ID, refer to our blog post, “Are Minors Using Fake IDs and Sneaking Past You?” Most establishments also have a guidebook, like the I.D. Checking Guide, for validating various forms of identification. Ask your manager if you have a guide like this in your establishment and refer to it if needed. The I.D. Checking Guide can be purchased from TAM® here.

To learn more about safe beverage service, take the Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) ® course offered by TAM® of Nevada. Do you think this incident could have been prevented? What types of procedures does your establishment have in place to prevent these types of accidents from happening?

Resources

Toddler’s Alcoholic Drink Prompts Changes at Applebee’s – The Detroit News

Applebee’s Corporate Statement on Incident in Madison Heights, MI – Applebee’s

© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

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