Even with the best intentions and most responsible serving practices, you may occasionally encounter a customer who shows signs of visible intoxication. When this occurs, service of alcoholic beverages to that customer must be stopped immediately. This may occur with a customer who just entered your establishment who you haven’t served. As a server, you have the right to refuse alcohol to anyone, as long as you don’t violate the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
To whom does the law prohibit you from selling/ serving alcohol?
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What are some examples of discrimination?
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Many professional servers use these guidelines when refusing service:
- Be courteous and concerned. People are more cooperative when they feel they are being respected and helped, rather than being put down. You might try a statement such as, “I want to see that you get home safely.”
- Be confident. Confidence convinces people you are doing the right thing. Act confident, even if you don’t feel especially confident — no one will know the difference!
- Be tactful. Never accuse a customer of being intoxicated. State simply that you cannot serve more alcohol and offer an option such as, “Why not make this one coffee?”
- Be discreet. Make every effort not to embarrass the customer in front of friends or business associates. If possible, speak to the person privately.
- Be firm. Do not allow the impaired customer to talk you out of the rational decision you have made. Use a phrase that gets the message across and stops an argument in its tracks like, “I’m sorry I can’t serve you anymore — it’s against the law.”
Occasionally, it is difficult to cut off service. By being prepared, you can keep control of the situation even though an intoxicated customer may be hostile, threatening and irrational.
Three reminders for dealing with difficult customers are:
- Remain calm. It helps to remember that the customer is the one with impaired judgment, not you.
- Get help. Tell the manager or other servers. Sometimes, even the hostile customer’s friends can help diffuse the situation. Occasionally you may even need to call the police.
- Avoid a fight. Fights are bad for business and could result in a lawsuit.
- When you cut off a customer, tell your manager and co-workers and keep a written record.
- When appropriate, take a co-worker with you when you have to refuse service or pull a drink.
- Make it clear you are in control without being overbearing and scaring off customers.
- Use peer pressure if possible by asking for support from the customer’s friends.
- When you pull the drink, have something to replace it with: a non-alcoholic drink, a cup of coffee, a plate of food . . . even just a glass of water is better than nothing.
- If at all possible, detain the intoxicated customer who intends to drive by offering him/her food and non-alcoholic drinks to allow time to sober up.
- Offer alternative transportation to keep intoxicated customers from driving.
- If an intoxicated customer insists on driving, threaten to call the police in an attempt to prevent them from driving.
- Follow through with calling the police if the intoxicated customer drives away and identify the driver and the vehicle.
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Slide 30: Refusing Service