What’s in a Serving Size? Servers and Sellers Should Remain Vigilant as Higher-Alcohol Beverages Hit the Market

wine bottlesIf you’ve taken your TAM® training, you know that guidelines dictate that a standard serving size for alcoholic beverages refers to 12 ounces of beer with 5% alcohol, 5 ounces of wine with 12% alcohol and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, which are 40% alcohol by volume. Knowledge of these standard serving sizes is very important, and can be helpful when you are observing patrons for increasing signs of intoxication; you can easily estimate how much alcohol they have consumed. However, it has become increasingly common for wine, beer and “alcopop” drinks such as Four Loko to have a higher than standard amount of alcohol by volume.

As reported by Health 24, it’s not uncommon for many wines to now register at 14-15% alcohol which throws off the standard five ounce serving. Additionally, while a standard beer may register around 4-5% alcohol, the increasing number of microbrews and premium beers with higher alcohol content are also throwing a wrench into standard serving calculations. Finally, consumers who purchased flavored malt beverages and alcopops which are packaged in bottles and sold at convenience, grocery and liquor stores across the United States can range anywhere from 5-12% alcohol depending on the choice. With all of these variations, it’s easy to see how patrons can easily consume more alcohol than intended and much more quickly reach unintended levels of intoxication.

Knowing this, servers, bartenders and anyone else responsible for service and sale of alcoholic beverages has a very important job on their hands… knowing how to spot an inebriated guest, and knowing when to intervene or cut them off. As a server, it’s important to make sure that your guests and patrons are having an enjoyable time, are served exactly what they ordered, and remain respectful of the establishment and others without being over-served. What do bartenders and servers need to know, and how can they use this knowledge to provide responsible beverage service? Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Read the labels and be knowledgeable about alcohol levels in the products you offer. If you have a bottle of wine or a beer on the menu with high alcohol content, it may be worthwhile to print the alcohol percentage on your menu, or at least be knowledgeable enough to answer guest questions about the alcohol content. A server can also politely mention the higher than average alcohol content to any guests ordering that beverage. A simple, “Here’s your beer. Just so you are aware, this particular bottle has a 10% alcohol level, so this is about double the standard alcohol serving,” would be appropriate.
  • When serving and observing guests, don’t just consider a drink’s potency, consider the serving size as well. Even if you are serving a standard 5% alcohol beer to a guest, if they are ordering a 16 ounce pint glass instead of a 12 ounce bottle, then this is still delivering more alcohol than one standard single serving. As always, remain observant.

To learn more about safe beverage service and any warning signs to watch out for in patrons, take our alcohol awareness course.

Resources

© 2013 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

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