9 Situations That Every Bartender Should be Prepared For | Bartending Advice

Did you know that California accounted for over 10% of the nationwide total of drunk driving fatalities in a recent year, equaling 1,069?

While the leading age group of deaths from drunk driving was 21 to 24-year-olds, over 3,000 of those arrested for driving under the influence were under the age of 18.

It’s accurate that the source of alcohol could come from anywhere, but one place it shouldn’t be coming from is your bar or your bartenders. This is exactly why RBS training exists: to ensure bartenders are formally educated on the consequences involved with serving alcohol to those under the legal drinking age.

RBS training is mandatory, and it’s not difficult to pass, but it’s not something that can be skipped even if you know how to check for fake IDs.

RBS certification signifies that you are a responsible server. There’s a lot more to know when it comes to RBS training, but the best way to understand its need is to picture a few situations you’ll want to be prepared for.

1. A Patron Not Having an ID With Them

It can seem simple to go off of how someone looks to determine if you should serve them alcohol. Keep good bartending advice in mind and realize that this is never an appropriate approach.

Many people look young just as many people look “old enough.” However, the only actual way to tell someone’s age is by verifying using their ID.

If a patron doesn’t have an ID with them, you can always use other forms of identification. The main thing is being able to confirm their photo with their date of birth. You should also never get in the practice of turning away someone for looking too youthful.

Professional bartenders go off ID verification and they know how to spot real or fake IDs so they never have to base decisions on anything other than that.

With this, all you need to know is to look for a few key things. Check for the date of birth, the photograph, and the expiration date. While expiration dates don’t change anyone’s age, the general rule is that the ID can’t be expired.

Make Sure to Match the ID to the Person

Ensure the photograph matches the person you’re seeing based on the face. Keep in mind that people can lose or gain weight from the time they took their ID picture, so it’s not abnormal for some people to look slightly different based on those types of changes. In this case, look at other identifiers on the license such as eye color and height.

Hair color isn’t the best verifier because of how often many people change their hair color. After using those key items to verify the person’s identity, you can always double-check. You can do this by feeling the card to better tell if something is fake based on the sturdiness or flimsiness.

You can also ask simple questions about the information on the ID in case you think it’s a fake ID. California alcohol laws permit you to seize fake IDs and turn them over to authorities if you think they may be fake.

However, the only time this is appropriate is if there are clear signs the ID might not be valid or theirs at all. This decision should not be based on looks but more so the state of the ID along with any other suspicions you may have. Most bars have very specific procedures and policies to follow if you want to go this route, so be sure to know them and follow them closely if needed.

2. Fights Breaking Out in the Bar

Fights can break out anywhere but especially in places where alcohol is served. Adults or not, not all adults know how to handle alcohol. One of many bartender requirements is to pay attention to patrons and to have 360-degree situation awareness.

You might be wondering what the appropriate thing would be for you to do if you’re dealing with unruly customers. The answer might not be what you’d assume, but it’s not your job to break up any fights in the bar. This is something that will fall on bar security or law enforcement.

In the case this happens, you should always stay behind the bar. Essentially, you are in charge of creating and serving drinks. You should also pay attention to patrons so that you can prevent situations like this from happening.

With things like this, managers often wonder, “Does a bouncer need to be RBS certified?” The answer is yes. Under California law, all bouncers of any club or bar and their employers have to be RBS certified.

However, if a fight does occur, realize that you are not responsible for the actions of others. The only thing that you can control is what’s behind the bar and what passes the bar to get to your customers.

3. Underage Individuals Trying to Slip Under the Radar

The best bartending advice that you can use is to check IDs for everyone, even when you’re sure they are of age or well past it. This is good practice to keep the reputation of your bar in good standing and to protect you from risking liability for serving alcohol to anyone underage.

This happens more than you might think, but those under 18, as we’ve mentioned, make up the highest rate of intoxication in traffic stops for the concern of driving under the influence. A lot of the time, you may be able to tell if someone is underage if the ID is obviously fake, or if they don’t have one at all and are persistent about being served alcohol.

It’s not uncommon for those of age to forget their wallet or leave their ID at home. However, those are the people who would go back to get it, be fine with not drinking if asked for an ID, or would often have another form of identification.

4. Patrons Appearing to Be ‘Too Intoxicated’

Yes, the bartender is responsible for monitoring people drinking in the establishment, and there is such a thing as ‘too intoxicated’. This basically means that you should be mindful of who you’re serving drinks to and how many. 

Believe it or not, bartenders have a list of rules that they follow to ensure both a good customer experience and overall safety. One of the most popular pieces of bartending advice is the 50% rule. If you haven’t heard of it, the 50% rule is basically the proper time when you’ll want to serve or at least prep the customer’s next drink: after half of the first one is gone.

This is more of a customer satisfaction trick. However, this is also a way to help you count someone’s drinks.

Keep a Few Things in Mind

Keep in mind that you aren’t actually counting anyone’s drinks. You want to keep a mental note of how many others may have had in case they become clearly intoxicated.

This is when you might cut them off, have them wait a certain period, or take their keys to prevent them from harming themselves or others. What you’ll be looking out for are bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and questionable behavior. If someone has lost mobility, this is a clear sign of drunkenness and these drunk customers should probably be cut off and have their keys taken.

While bartending can seem like babysitting adults, this is one of those bar situations that should be paid close attention to. Over-intoxication will often lead to one of three reactions.

The person may become very aggressive to you or other patrons. They may simply fall asleep at the bar or in a way become very sloppy. They may assume they are okay, act normal, and try to leave the bar.

Use good bartending advice and look out for these situations to prevent them as best you can based on the bar’s policies.

5. The Need for Addressing Aggressive Behavior

As a bartender, you might have noticed how behaviors change when someone is under the influence. Alcohol affects how people make decisions, their attention span, and how they respond to different situations. Alcohol often promotes aggressiveness and this is something you should be prepared for.

RBS training is going to prepare you to handle situations that you might have expected and those you might not have. You will learn to only serve alcohol ‘on-premises’ and to serve to those of legal age. With these two things, you will cut down on the unforeseen issues happening in your bar.

However, it’s not always easy to prevent these bar situations from occurring even with proper RBS training. Because of this, you need to know how to handle yourself to limit the chance of violence or injury. This is to protect yourself, employees, and patrons in your area who aren’t involved.

As a server or bartender it is a good practice to be mindful of your role and the role of others in the bar. If you stick to your area as much as possible, especially in the case of aggressive situations, you can limit preventable dangers.

6. Avoiding Over-Serving

It can be tough dealing with unruly customers, and this is what RBS certification prepares you to handle. Over-serving your patrons is something that often leads to drunk customers becoming problematic but if you can keep an eye on how much you’re serving, this won’t be an issue.

This plays a lot into paying attention to the cues that patrons give off. Pay attention to the behavior of unruly customers during these bar situations, their volume, and whether they are becoming argumentative.

A lot of the time, when someone starts to do these things, you can intervene before their behavior becomes worse. This often involves cutting them off and simply serving them water.

7. Busy Nights and Being Understaffed

There are a lot of times when you might be the only bartender on-site during your shift. This will depend on the size of the location where you work, but oftentimes you could be the sole person behind the bar.

This means that you need to have high levels of organization, attention to detail, and knowledge of how to handle pressure.

RBS certification prepares you for handling hectic nights as the only bartender. You will learn how to keep your space clean and organized, how to keep up with the things that will make a difference in how you serve, and how you can keep up with the cleanliness behind the bar.

These are tactics to keep yourself up to par with customer service. However, keeping behind the bar clean and organized actually has more to do with preventing health code violations. This is something that RBS certification focuses on.

When you have a clean workplace, you’re also limiting the chance for injury or mistakes to happen. What you’ll want to do here is clean as you go and not let messes pile up. Not only is this a good risk mitigation tactic, but it’s also a good way to limit the amount of cleaning at the end of a shift.

8. Random Emergencies Within the Bar

An RBS certification is going to give you confidence in being prepared for certain emergencies and knowing how to manage or react to them. Keep in mind that bars are high-risk areas for physical injury and medical emergencies.

This means that you should know where safety equipment is in your bar so that you can react accordingly until the proper resources have been dispatched. This could involve knowing where fire extinguishers and first aid kits are as well as whether any of your staff are certified or trained as an EMT or in CPR.

9. Complaints From Patrons

Complaints are present in every industry, and as a bartender, you are likely to experience them. They can derive from how you keep your workspace, how a drink tastes, or how you made the drink. Or a patron might simply be intoxicated and act in a manner where they are directing this toward you.

RBS training is going to teach you how to use certain techniques to prepare drinks. You will learn how to interact with your patrons and how to keep drunk customers within their limits. All of this can help you to avoid unwanted complaints regardless of why they’re being made.

Making the RBS Training Process Simple

RBS training is necessary, and it’s also a simple requirement to fulfill. The process is as easy as registering with the California Beverage Control, purchasing and taking the course, and then taking the state exam. However, after the course, you’ll be prepared and confident enough to exceed your own expectations during the test.

This training helps to protect you, your customers, and your bar, so start learning more by exploring state resources.