Responsible Beverage Service
This countermeasure covers a range of alcohol sales policies and practices that prevent or discourage restaurant and bar patrons from drinking to excess or from driving while impaired by alcohol. Server training programs teach servers how to recognize the signs of intoxication and how to prevent intoxicated patrons from further drinking and from driving. Management policies and programs include limits on cheap drinks and other promotions, support for designated driver programs, commitment to server training, and support for servers who refuse alcohol to intoxicated patrons. Goodwin et al. (2005) provides an overview of responsible beverage service. See also Wagenaar and Tobler (2007) and Voas and Lacey (2011) for reviews and discussion of the research literature on this issue.
Some States have mandatory programs that require at least some alcohol retail employees to attend a server training course. Other States have voluntary programs that provide incentives for retailers to participate (e.g., liability protection or insurance discounts). The quality of server training programs can vary considerably. Wagenaar and Tobler (2007) note that many server training laws “are not optimally designed, do not ensure quality training, and do not ensure all servers are consistently trained, or retrained periodically” (p. 158).
Server training programs are the only segment of responsible beverage service that has been adequately documented and evaluated. Research suggests that server training programs can be effective at reducing excessive drinking if they involve intensive, high-quality, face-to-face server training that is accompanied by strong and active management support (Shults et al. 2001). When server training programs are not intensive and are not supported, they are unlikely to result in greater refusals of service to intoxicated patrons. Despite these positive research findings for well-implemented server training programs, the available evidence does not support the effectiveness of generally used responsible beverage service countermeasures to reduce alcohol-impaired driving crashes.