How to Deal With Drunk Customers

Businessmen having drinks at bar, man holding glass and slice of lime
Sean Murphy/ Iconica/ Getty Images

While you want a robust bar business, since alcohol sales offer great profit margins with low overhead, the drawback is that you may, on occasion, have to deal with drunk customers. The key to dealing with drunk customers is to not let them get drunk in the first place. Big chains like Appleebee's do this by limiting the types of alcoholic drinks served (no Long Island Tea for you) and limiting the number of drinks a person can order.

So, how do small independent restaurants handle the issue of too much imbibing by patrons? Recognizing when someone has had too much to drink is the first step. Don't serve them anymore - even if they make a scene, it is your best interest not to serve them anymore! 

Restaurant Owners Are Liable 

If you are planning on serving liquor at your new restaurant, than you should be familiar with all the laws and responsibilities that come with it. While liquor laws vary from state to state, in most cases if a person is involved in an accident while drunk you, as the owner of the establishment that served them, may be held liable as well.

Take Care of The Customer 

The best way to avoid any potential lawsuits stemming from drunkenness is to not serve a customer who appears inebriated. Of course, some people can hold their liquor very well, and your staff may not realize the patron is drunk until it is too late.

If you are faced with a customer who has had too much to drink, here are some tips for handling them:

• STOP serving them immediately. If the customer has wandered in from another bar or restaurant, you can refuse to serve them. They may claim you’re acting illegal, but your not. You are acting responsible.

• Offer the customer some coffee and some food, as an alternative to a drink.

• Call a cab or another ride home for the customer. Do not let them drive!

• If a customer becomes belligerent or angry, escort them outside of the restaurant and call the police, who can look after the customer, until he or she is safe and sober.

TIPS Training 

TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) is a program that teaches restaurant staff about the responsible sale of alcohol. It gives advice on how to identify if someone has had too much to drink, and how to deal with them effectively. Visit the TIPS website for more information training your staff. States, such as Maine, even offer free Responsible Beverage Training through their Department of Public Safety. Contact your state or local government to see if there is a free training available for your staff. 

Ensuring that your staff is trained to handle customers who have had too much to drink can help stop any trouble before it starts.