7 Ways On How To Deal With Drunk Customers

March 7, 2017 by Larry Struckman

dealing with drunks.jpgRestaurants and bars are mainstays for having a good time, especially during holidays like St. Patrick's Day. You may know St. Patrick's Day is one of the biggest "Party Holidays" of the year, aside from New Year's Eve.

So, how do you balance the fact that your customers are paying patrons -- ones that keep your restaurant afloat -- and also understand that you want your restaurant or bar to be a place for “good times”? There is a reason spirits are freely flowing at bars and restaurants on this day. It is fun! But how do you deal with customers who have too much fun?

Here are five tips for how to deal with drunk customers -- how to spot them, and how to react if they get out of hand:

Plan For It

While St. Patrick's Day is just one holiday out of the year celebrated with high volumes of alcohol, one variable remains unchanged: You can plan for it.

There are TIPS certification and liquor-serving licenses in every state that put policy forward on alcohol service according to state law. These policies can be driven by the restaurant leaders, posted in your employee break area or kitchen, and in your online ShiftNote software.

Put a policy into place that is according to state law and the best interest of your establishment. Your bartenders and servers should be licensed and trained on the policies of your establishment as well as state laws.

Prior to major events, just as you would properly plan the right staff -- consider extra help. Do you want to employ security or bouncers the day-of a holiday? It’s not a bad call. Just as the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Consider Your Glassware

Some policies are placed on the establishment such as pour size. For example, you could choose a glassware size that is smaller for drinks with high alcohol, to pre-emptively plan for client intake concerns.

  • Bonus: For your bartender and servers’ benefit, you could list alcohol by volume on your bar display.

Assess the Situation

Say it’s the day of a holiday -- and for purposes of this post -- it’s St. Patrick's Day -- and you’ve got a level-10 drunk. First, really assess their level of intoxication. Then, develop a plan with your staff to take appropriate measures. A simple system to use is the red light, yellow light, green light system.

  • Green Light: Customer is showing no signs of intoxication
  • Yellow Light: Slow down service. Customer is starting to show signs of intoxication
  • Red Light: Stop alcohol service. Customer is showing signs of intoxication. Offer them food or other types of non-alcoholic beverages.

Do No Over Serve

The best advice: simply do not over serve. If someone comes in drunk, have your staff watch them, and cut them off to maintain a safe environment for the other patrons. More than anything, you don't want any legal liability if there are any issues. You can always ask them to leave and get them off your property safely… Worst case: you could call them a cab or even call the cops. The worse I've had to do is tell someone to drink a water, quiet down, or find somewhere else to doze off.

So, how do you spot a drunk? The following are the most common signs of intoxication:

  • Slurred speech
  • Slow response to questions, a need to repeat questions, failure to answer questions asked
  • Poor motor skills, difficulty getting out of seat or walking, fumbling, leaning on objects
  • Overtly loud voice, causing a disruption to others

Offer Respect

If you need to cut off a drunken patron, pull them aside. Respectfully, but firmly, let the patron know that they will no longer be served alcohol. Be empathetic and straightforward, but be clear that their destiny is in your hands for the night, and your decision to either cut them off or kick them out is final. Remain courteous as to not instigate confrontation; discussing the matter in private will spare the patron the embarrassment of being singled out in front of others.

Drinking and Lewd Behavior Go Hand in Hand

Aside from drinking, St. Patrick's Day is known for corned beef, green beer and kissing (kiss me i'm Irish). Uh-oh, what if someone at your establishment gets a little too drunk and makes a stupid decision? Well, try not to let it get to that. Always remember -- put a plan in place, train your staff for success, and hopefully lewd behavior will not happen.

Remember: It’s the Law

Dram shop liability is a law that governs commercial establishments serving alcoholic beverages. The law protect the public from the hazards of over serving, holding establishments liable for issues arising out of the sale of alcohol to visibly drunk people and minors who subsequently cause death or injury to third parties (those not having a relationship to the bar) as a result of alcohol-related car crashes and other accidents. Penalties vary from state to state, but the point is: don’t take this issue lightly! Do not serve a visibly intoxicated patron or minor.

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Larry Struckman

Passionate about setting up systems and procedures that assure success, training, consulting, growing sales, strategic planning, creating "raving fan" customer service and just about anything related to food service. 25+ years in food and sales as well as growing hundreds of concepts with different operators (I have seen them all). I enjoy cooking, computer software, Taekwondo and spending time with my family. We started ShiftNote in 2007 to help organizations like yours create a better platform for shift-to-shift communication across their organization. Our purpose is to serve you with the best online digital logbook and employee scheduling software on the market so you can spend more time focusing on growing your business.