Service Excellence: Reading Customer Cues and Body Language

busy_bartenderA successful bartender or server is a keen and attentive observer. In addition to watching guests for signs of intoxication, one must also watch for cues and body language that indicate a guest would like to place a drink order or pay a bill. In a busy restaurant or crowded bar, it’s a challenge to provide excellent service to each and every one of your customers; the ability to watch for subtle hints and signals as you are rushing to clear tables or checking on other guests is crucial. So, do you know what to watch for?

Recently, researchers at Bielefield University in Germany compiled video recordings of customers ordering drinks in order to program a robot to interpret the body language of those people who are ready to place an order (UPI). Findings from this study help to establish clues as to what customers are doing to signal bartenders that they need service. Researchers found that only about 7% of customers looked at their wallets to signal that they would like to place an order. Looking for a more obvious clue? Surprisingly, less than 4% customers gestured at the bartender. So, what should bartenders look for from customers who may be ready to order? In this case, 90% of customers took the initiative by positioning themselves right up against the bar counter, facing the counter or the bartender. What we can take away from this is that one should also look for customers who are subtly trying to catch your eye or gain your attention.

While a robot bartender may sound like a fun gimmick for serving drinks, a responsible and diligent live bartender is necessary to read social situations and watch for signs of intoxication in customers. In addition to watching customers for cues that they would like to be served, watch them for cues that they should not be served. In order to learn the skills you need to serve effectively and responsibly, complete your Techniques of Alcohol Management® training and obtain a TAM® Card.

Also, it’s not only important to watch for cues from your guests, but remember to also remain aware of how your own body language may be perceived by others. Not only will a smile put your guests into a good frame of mind, projecting a positive attitude and body language will help YOU to relax and enjoy your job. And, as an added bonus, positive body language and professionalism set the tone for an enjoyable evening and can net you greater tips. For more tips on body language do’s and don’ts, check out our blog post “Set the Tone and Increase Your Earnings with Positive Body Language.”

Readers: What other advice would you give for reading cues and body language in customers?



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?


© 2013 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

Are You Doing All You Can to Prevent Drunk Driving?

Every 30 minutes someone dies in an alcohol-related crash. And, did you know? Alcohol is a factor in 6% of all traffic crashes, and over 40% of all fatal crashes (National Safety Council). These are startling facts that one cannot simply ignore. Drunk driving is one of the most dangerous activities someone can engage in. It’s also 100% preventable.

An alcoholic beverage service professional has a legal and moral responsibility to serve alcohol responsibly, keep a close eye on imbibing patrons, and promote an alternative means of getting home if anyone appears too drunk to drive. One should make sure guests can make it home safely without injuring themselves or others.

Remember, drunk driving is always dangerous, and not just to the driver. Pedestrians, passengers and others on the road can all become victims. Recently in the early morning hours on April 28th, a woman was killed when she was hit by a suspected drunk driver on the Las Vegas Strip (Las Vegas Sun). This is another terrible reminder of the dangers of getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink.

Some people are able to ignore the facts. But remember, a victim of a drunk driver is someone’s sister, brother, mother, father, friend, coworker, etc. The Transport Accident Commission in Australia created an incredible PSA on the dangers of drunk driving which can be viewed here. This is a graphic video, but one of the most powerful PSAs we’ve ever seen at TAM® of Nevada. This video is certain to hit close to home for some, and sharing with others will help spread the message that drunk driving is never the answer.

There are a few things you can do to support and promote this message with your patrons.

  1. Complete your alcohol awareness course with TAM® of Nevada to learn about responsible beverage service. Course highlights include identifying false identification, clinical effects of alcohol, laws, rules and regulations, customer disturbances and service guidelines.
  2. Become familiar with sober driving services available in southern Nevada. Keep the number to a reliable cab company and any other sober driver services at your bar so that you can make the call whenever necessary. Companies like Designated Drivers, Inc. provide a responsible alternative to driving while impaired. A driver will be dispatched to take your patron home in their own vehicle, no worrying about retrieving their car after they sober up.
  3. If a group of guests is at your establishment and an individual within the group is becoming intoxicated, check with a sober member of their group to make sure that they have a plan to get the intoxicated individual home safely. If there is no designated driver assigned, offer to call a cab or sober driver service.
  4. Familiarize yourself with company policies when it comes to intoxicated patrons and suspected drunk drivers. Alert your manager or supervisor if you need to cut someone off, if you need them to intervene in the situation, or if you have any concerns about a guest’s safety.
  5. If you have a friend or family member that you worry may have a drinking problem, and may be at risk to drive drunk, do what you can to get them the help they need. Refer to our blog post “April is Alcohol Awareness Month” for tips on how to recognize a drinking problem, and how to help.

Drunk driving is a serious problem that can affect so many. What tips would you give someone else to help prevent intoxicated individuals from getting behind the wheel of a car?


Drunk Driving – National Safety Council

Woman, 28, accused of DUI after collision kills pedestrian on Las Vegas Strip – Las Vegas Sun

Designated Drivers, Inc.

© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

Cheers! Tracing the History of Classic Cocktails

People have been mixing drinks to suit their tastes for centuries. In fact, many of the most popular and well known drinks requested by bar patrons today were first created by bartenders decades ago. Ever wonder about the history behind these classic cocktails? Being able to explain the origin of a mixed drink makes for great conversation with your patrons. The origin of many popular cocktails remains elusive, often with multiple sources claiming credit. Others can be traced back to a particular mixologist or bar. While several cocktails have more stories about their origins than ingredients in the actual drink, here are a few we can help pinpoint for you:

  1. Long Island Iced Tea – The history of the Long Island Iced Tea is easy to trace back to, you guessed it, Long Island! This drink was first whipped up by bartender Robert “Rosebud” Butt at the Oak Beach Inn in the mid-1970s (Chow, Wikipedia).
  2. Piña Colada – The official drink of Puerto Rico, made famous by Rupert Holmes’ song “Escape” (more commonly known as the ‘Piña Colada Song’), and most likely created by one of two individuals who claim credit (Chow). Depending on which account you believe, the tropical cocktail was either created by Ramon Monchito Marrero Pérez in 1954 at the Caribe Hilton, or across town by Don Ramón Portas Migot in 1963. You can read the Puerto Rico Herald’s article, “A Caribbean Tale of Two Piña Coladas,” and decide for yourself.
  3. The Mojito – This drink is popular once again, and while the exact origin can’t be confirmed, all are in agreement that its origin can be traced to Cuba, and may have first showed up around 400 years ago (Chow, Wikipedia, Bacardi). The mojito may have been popular in Cuba for many years, but perhaps its most famous fan was writer Ernest Hemingway who helped make the drink, and the Cuban bar La Bodeguita del Medio, popular among the masses.

The origin of some cocktails has become the stuff of tall tales and legends, but it certainly makes for good material to debate. What is your favorite classic drink recipe?


© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada