Food and alcohol safety in bar and restaurant settings dictates that those employees engaging in direct customer contact pay attention to potential intoxication. Bartenders and servers alike have an ethical and legal responsibility to refuse alcohol service to patrons who are already intoxicated. This presents a dilemma: they have to continually evaluate customer intoxication until a patron leaves the premises.

Short of conducting a blood alcohol content (BAC) screening using a breathalyzer machine, there really is no way to definitively know whether a person is legally intoxicated or not. But there are ways to evaluate intoxication levels in order to meet legal responsibilities.

Below are a few tips for evaluating customer intoxication. Note that these tips do not act as a replacement of required food and alcohol safety training in Utah. Your bartenders and servers still need to undergo an in-house or off-site course that properly certifies them to serve alcohol.

1. Pay Attention to Behavior

This first tip is really a blanket statement that overlaps with the other tips included in this post. Here it is: pay attention to customer behavior for as long as a particular patron remains on your premises. Look for signs of potential intoxication including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, abnormal or unsteady gait, and boisterous behavior.

It may take a while for new bartenders and servers to learn to identify the signs of early-stage intoxication, but it’s probably safe to say that the average person can identify someone who is heavily intoxicated. Patrons who show signs of slight intoxication should be more closely monitored.

2. Pay Attention to the Zones

There is an alcohol safety training standard known as the traffic light standard. This standard accounts for three different zones consumers may fall into. The green zone is occupied by people who are showing no signs of intoxication. The yellow zone is for patrons who are showing signs of slight intoxication, while the red zone is occupied by people who are fully intoxicated.

Being mindful of those zones can help a bartender or server better identify patron intoxication. How so? By creating a threshold in the mind of the bartender or server. He or she may notice certain kinds of behavior and immediately consider which zone that person is in. The zones force bartenders and servers to more closely evaluate rather than only paying cursory attention.

3. Evaluate as a Team

Although the law doesn’t require every staff member to undergo alcohol safety training in Utah, it is still a good idea for restaurants and bars to implement a team evaluation policy. Take bussers, for example. They should be encouraged to watch patron behavior closely as they work in the dining room. If they notice something of concern, they can inform a server or bartender.

By employing a team approach, you have more eyes paying attention to customer intoxication. The more eyes you have on patrons, the more likely the team will identify an intoxicated person before it’s too late.

The goal of evaluating customer intoxication is two-fold. First is the obvious legal requirement to refuse service to anyone who is already intoxicated. Second is the objective of preventing customers from reaching the red zone to begin with. Bartenders and servers can utilize certain strategies to keep someone in the yellow zone and steer him or her back into the green zone over time.

Evaluating customer intoxication comes with the territory when you serve alcohol. Be sure all applicable employees undergo proper food and alcohol safety training. Then implement a policy to ensure that everyone who should be paying attention is doing so.