Tips to avert alcohol-related disasters at a holiday party

Holiday parties can be a hoot so long as establishments ensure a safe environment for guests. Share this article

Holiday office parties are all fun and games until someone gets hurt. More often than it should, intoxication results in injuries and fatalities. As restaurants are prime spots for many of these functions, owners and managers should spend extra time preparing for a number of scenarios at holiday parties to prevent accidents and harm to guests.

Remind employees of policies
Remember, many patrons who visit your establishment for work or family parties don't normally go out. They might not understand liquor laws or regulations that are put in place by the restaurant, which means they can be a little trickier to handle. These seasonal soirees, including New Years Eve, are often referred to as "rookie nights" for that reason exactly. 

The biggest point you should emphasize to your staff is liquor best practices. As the National Restaurant Association pointed out, it's one of the biggest concerns of the holidays because misuse causes so many tragedies. The National Safety Council estimated that car crashes would cause  44,700 injuries and 418 fatalities would occur over Thanksgiving weekend, and it's just the start of the holiday season. 

Why merriment turns to tragedy
These statistics spike during the holiday season because more people are on the roads. AAA predicted that more than 46 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving weekend alone – that doesn't include the thousands of people who flock to New York City for New Years Eve or others who travel home for Christmas or Hanukkah. It's startling statistics like these that can be used as the greatest motivation to be strict and unwavering when it comes to serving alcohol.

Start out on a strong note
Out of the gate, restaurant staff should take steps to minimize the risk of harm to guests. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) recommended that establishments offer food because it can slow down the rate at which a person becomes intoxicated.

Severs should also pay special attention to water glasses because alcohol can make people increasingly thirsty as it dehydrates the body. In reaction, a person might just keep ordering boozy cocktails to quench his or her thirst. 

It's crucial to know how much alcohol your staff is serving guests. Emphasize the importance of ringing in every drink, and also teach employees how to measure drinks to avoid over pouring. Supply your staff with jiggers, which are essentially measuring cups for liquor. As the NRA pointed out, five ounces of wine is the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor or 1 ounce of 100-proof. 

Mingling as a strategy
It's up to staff and management to ensure that patrons are consuming responsibly. When there's a function in your restaurant, make it a top priority to mingle throughout the evening so you can gage everyone's level of intoxication. More often than not, you'll be able to tell if someone has had too much.

As the NRA explained, guests will change over the course of a night if they've been drinking. Keep an eye out for people who are suddenly over friendly or too quiet, using foul language, drinking fast or who have a hard time walking without stumbling into objects. 

Trend softly with intoxicated patrons
If you've noticed that someone is behaving out of character, handle the situation kindly and discreetly. Drunk people can be unpredictable. Be firm when you cut someone off and never reverse a decision. Offer him or her a complementary drink on his or her next visit, but no more that evening. Call a taxi service and see that the guest doesn't drive, because the establishment can potentially be held liable for someone drinking and driving. 

Keep a close watch on your establishment this holiday season so you can ensure guests have a great time without going overboard. Safety is the most important aspect of a holiday party. Accidents aren't fun for anyone. 


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