Identifying High-Risk Situations: A Guide for Bartenders

On average, six people die of alcohol poisoning each day in the US. As a bartender, your two main roles are serving liquor and ensuring the safety and well-being of your customers. This means you have to be extremely vigilant in identifying situations where customers may be at risk of harm or engaging in risky behaviors. 

There are various risks of serving alcohol that you need to be aware of as a bartender. If you aren’t careful and don’t serve alcohol safely, you could risk losing your liquor license.

As a bartender, you need to be able to identify high-risk situations through key warning signs. Prevention and intervention can ensure the safety and well-being of both your customers and your establishment. So, keep reading to find out how to identify high-risk situations when serving liquor and how RBS training can reduce liability for serving alcohol.

Know the Signs

As a server or bartender, it is a good practice to not only check IDs before serving alcohol but also ensure that the patron isn’t already intoxicated. Oftentimes people will think they’re still fine to drink more, but the alcohol has already influenced their decision-making skills.

Knowing the signs of intoxication is an important aspect of being a bartender. If you serve alcohol to patrons that are already intoxicated, chances are they might end up making bad decisions afterward. Driving under the influence being one of them.

Some common signs to look out for include the following:

  • Speech
  • Behavior
  • Coordination
  • Balance

If a person is intoxicated their speech will be affected. They might slur their words or mumble, lose their train of thought mid-conversation, or try to have incoherent conversations. If someone drank too much, problems with the way they talk are usually one of the first warning signs.

Changes in their behavior are a clear sign that they’ve had too much to drink. Unfortunately, alcohol affects everyone differently, so the changes in behavior aren’t always the same. Common behaviors exhibited when intoxicated include:

  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Exuberance
  • Drowsiness

Coordination and balance are other ways to determine if someone has had too much to drink. If they’re sweating while they stand or struggle to bring their glass to their mouth, chances are they’ve had too much to drink.

Alcohol and the Body

As a bartender, you need to understand that alcohol won’t affect everyone the same way. What might give someone a light buzz can make another person completely drunk. When drinking the same amount of alcohol:

  • A smaller person is more affected than a larger one
  • A person with an empty stomach is more affected than a person who had a large meal beforehand
  • Women are more affected than men
  • A person who drinks regularly won’t be as affected as someone who rarely drinks

This is why it’s extremely important to read the signs people show you. Just counting drinks won’t give you enough information to decide when to cut someone off.

It’s important to remember that alcohol can take up to ten minutes to fully enter your system. Just because they’re fine right now if they have another drink, they might become intoxicated.

Rather be safe and have them drink some water before they can order another drink. The patron might not like it, but if they aren’t intoxicated, they’ll understand your need for safety.

RBS Training

It’s important to understand the risks of serving alcohol if you’re getting into the business. Liquor intoxication is no laughing matter, so it’s crucial that all members of staff uphold alcohol safety. This is where RBS training comes in.

But what is RBS training? RBS stands for Responsible Beverage Service. RBS training teaches bartenders and servers to responsibly serve alcoholic beverages. This makes it safer for everyone involved and strives to reduce liquor intoxication.

Training equips bartenders with the skills needed to not only safely serve alcohol but also to ensure they can handle unruly or rude customers. Training also helps them manage issues that can arise on the job, like theft, long hours, loud environments, and busy crowds.

Bartenders have an incredibly high turnover rate if they’re not trained to deal with all aspects of being a bartender. Mixing drinks and serving beer is just one facet of the role. Employees need guidance and thorough training to succeed in their roles. 

Health and Safety Guidelines

Bartenders also need to be taught the various health and safety guidelines specific to serving drinks at the bar. A health violation will negatively affect every aspect of the business. Bartenders need to know exactly what to look out for to ensure the bar area doesn’t violate the health code.

Bartenders need to make sure they:

  • Wash their hands thoroughly
  • Safely handle glasses without touching the rims
  • Don’t touch the ice or garnishes with their hands
  • Keep clean towels on hand
  • Know how to safely handle broken glass

Understand the Risks of Serving Alcohol

As a bartender, you need to understand all the risks of serving alcohol, if you aren’t vigilant, someone can get seriously hurt. This is why RBS training is crucial, it can teach you how to serve alcohol safely while also reducing your liability for serving alcohol.

If you want to ensure you understand alcohol safety and know how to spot the signs of intoxication, consider taking an RBS training course today. If you’re based in California, it’s required that servers, managers, and owners meet state standards with RBS training in order to keep your liquor license.