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 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 estimate how much alcohol they have consumed. However, it has become increasingly common for wine and beer 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. 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 can purchase flavored malt beverages which are packaged in bottles and sold at convenience, grocery and liquor stores across the United States. They 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, as a result, quickly become much more intoxicated.

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 intoxicated guest, and knowing when to intervene or cut them off. As a server, it’s important to make sure that your guests are having an good 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 and get TAM certified.

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Alcohol Awareness and Safety: Tostitos Bag Can Tell When You’ve Been Drinking

Tostitos has just come up with a very creative way to remind consumers about the dangers of drunk driving, just in time for Super Bowl Sunday. Tostitos collaborated with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Uber to design a tortilla chip bag that can tell when you should maybe call a cab to get home safely.

It stands to reason that tortilla chips are a staple at many Superbowl parties, and Tostitos’ clever design includes an alcohol sensor embedded in their chip bags. The limited edition bags feature an alcohol breath sensor that will turn red if alcohol is detected on someone’s breath and green if it’s not. For those who turn the bag red, there is a UPC code included on the bag that will grant a $10 discount code from Uber, to help consumers get home safely. It is important to note that while the bag’s alcohol sensor can determine if someone has been drinking, it will not function like a breathalyzer test and calculate BAC. It is still important for individuals to drink responsibly and make safe choices.

Check out this YouTube video from Tostitos to see the bag and learn more:

This is certainly one of the more creative tools we’ve seen to promote alcohol awareness and the importance of having a designated sober driver. What do you think about Tostitos’ “That’s How We Party” campaign and alcohol sensor bags? Let us know in the comments!

Safe Beverage Service – Higher ABV Wines Require Special Consideration

Wine ABVIf you’ve taken your TAM® Card training, you know that all alcoholic beverages are not created equal. A standard serving size means 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. This calculation helps when you are observing your guests for increasing signs of intoxication. You can easily estimate how much alcohol they have consumed and act accordingly to keep things safe.

However, it is becoming increasingly common for wines to have a higher than standard amount of alcohol by volume (ABV). Maybe you’ve noticed it yourself when opening a bottle of wine for patrons, but the standard 12% ABV isn’t always the norm. As reported by Health 24, it’s not uncommon for many wines to now register at 14-15% ABV, which throws off calculation on a standard five ounce serving.

Additionally, as reported by FWx, a new study suggests the ABV listed on a wine label might not be correct. The study indicated that nearly 60% of the 100,000 bottles tested came back containing a higher percentage of alcohol than was listed on the label. The average overstatement was roughly 0.42%, which might not seem like a lot. But, it could still lead hospitality professionals and guests to underestimate the amount that has been consumed, and put them at risk.

With variations like this, it’s easy to see how patrons can easily consume more alcohol than they intended to, and much more quickly reach unintended levels of intoxication.

So what does this mean for you as a service professional?

  • Read the labels and be knowledgeable about alcohol levels in the products you offer. If you have a bottle of wine or a microbrew on the menu with high ABV, consider including the alcohol percentage on your menu. A server can also 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. If you’re offering bottle service, it is very important to keep an eye on guests and keep a tally of how much they are consuming. And even if you are serving a standard 12% wine to a guest, if they are ordering a tasting sampler with three 3oz glasses, or a larger 7oz pour, then this is still delivering more alcohol than one standard single serving.

To learn more about safe beverage service and any warning signs to watch out for in guests, complete an alcohol awareness course with TAM® of Nevada.

NTSB Recommends Lowering Legal Limit on Drunk Driving from .08 to .05

drunk-drivingDrunk driving continues to be a serious problem that results in over 10,000 deaths each year on U.S. roads; that accounts for one-third of all traffic-related fatalities (CDC). In fact, The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police department reported that drinking and driving arrests were up 18% in 2012 over 2011. That works out to approximately 30 DUI arrests every day in Las Vegas. Police, beverage service professionals, and community agencies work together each year to combat the problem through a mix of education, safe beverage service, sobriety checkpoints, decoy operations and more. But, could more be done to keep impaired drivers off of the road?

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board made a recommendation that states lower the legal blood alcohol concentration limit from .08 to .05 for driving a vehicle in an effort to further reduce crashes (Las Vegas Sun). In 2000, Congress passed a measure that required states to lower the legal limit to .08 by 2003 to avoid losing a portion of their federal highway construction funding. The legal limit for intoxication in Nevada has been set at .08 since 2003.

The new NTSB recommendation is drawing mixed reviews from various groups and individuals across Nevada (Action News 13) but it does get people talking about the issue and draws attention to the dangers of buzzed and drunk driving. Arguments have also been made that the focus should instead be placed on tougher restrictions for repeat DUI offenders and those with BAC’s of .10 or higher.

No matter where you stand on the issue of a change to the legal BAC limit for driving a vehicle, it is important to always practice the Techniques of Alcohol Management®. Do your part to serve responsibly and monitor your patrons closely for signs of intoxication. For more tips on how to help prevent impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel, check out our blog post “Are You Doing All You Can to Prevent Drunk Driving?

Do you think a lower legal BAC limit would help to reduce drunken driving-related crashes? What tips would you give someone else to help prevent intoxicated individuals from getting behind the wheel of a car?

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© 2013 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada