When has a guest crossed the line from 'Enough' to 'Too Much'?
There was news story last week, it goes something like this: A man walks into a bar.... no, seriously. Customer bar hoops between two places; drives motorcycle to a friend's house; hangs for a few hours jumps on motorcycle to ride home. Gets into and accident and crushes his leg, crippled. The victim hires an attorney and sues the establishment that he claims overserved him resulting in a crippling accident.
That horrible yet preventable scenario. Set aside the lawsuit end of it. The real question: At what point do we as service personnel need to determine when enough is enough? Whether serving a guest in the dinning room or at the bar, professional servers need to be able both to recognize signs of excess and to deal with the guest without causing a scene.
Some signs are easy to spot - slurred speech, glassy eyes, delayed reaction time. Sometimes you have to pick up on more subtle clues; the customer may begin to raise their voice, and keep asking if you know what they mean.
Observing, then acting.
When you do suspect inebriation, there are some simple things that can help u defuse the situation. Serving more water, whether requested or not, is one. If you put a fresh glass in front of them without saying anything, someone who is too far gone will likely not drink the water - and you can stop serving them.
The tact necessary to bring the guest to their own conclusion that they have had enough is when experience and patience come in. Being diligent in observation is the key. Striking up a conversation about their evening - where they have been and what they enjoyed - can help gauge how events will evolve.
There are time when a group effort is necessary; if you have determined that a guest is near or close tp being cut off, other on your team especially managers, need to know. An inebriated person also can make other guests uncomfortable.
Another caveat: when a guest arrives, you never know how much alcohol they have had just prior. I was in an Italian restaurant ones when a professional looking woman sat at a the bar ordered a glass of wine. He behavior seemed perfectly normal she barely sipped the wine. She began a conversation with the gentleman next to her. He was uninterested; she kept at him becoming a little "touchy feely". The bartender, cognizant, offered eater and attempted a quick chat. No response. Bartender left the bar to inform the manager. When she returned the guest's head was on the bar and she seemed asleep. The manager nudged her awake and offered her a taxi. Guests went nuts - yelling at the manager, stating she would sure his "behind". When he offered more forcefully to hail her a safe ride home, she escalated: " I will sue you and have you deported, you expletive, expletive!" He responded by calling the police; she left before they arrived.
I watched this situation unfold. I was shocked at how quickly it escalated even though the staff proactively tried to help! This took ten minutes from devolution to escalation without even a storm warning. She did not even consume the glass of wine. We'll never know what she drank beforehand and people metabolize alcohol at varies rates, so pay attention.
© American Sommelier, Inc 2017