Fighting Underage Drinking in Your Stores

Carolina Brewery

A restaurant’s ability to curb underage drinking begins with education, vigilance, and consistency.

A restaurant’s ability to curb underage drinking begins with education, vigilance, and consistency.

Greg Carey knows his guest base.

The president and chief operating officer at Flat Out Crazy Restaurant Group, the Chicago-based company that oversees 18 Flat Top Grill locations, Carey and his cohorts have embraced Generation Y’s connection with customized meals and strategically positioned many of Flat Top’s restaurants in areas with youthful client bases.

In the Big 10 college towns of Champaign, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, youths flock to Flat Top to create their own stir-fry dishes in an atmosphere high on energy and action. The young audience, however, can clash with one of Flat Top’s key profit areas: alcohol sales.

“We attract a young clientele, but we have established standards as part of our culture, and we don’t serve minors,” Carey says.

For restaurants across the country, underage drinking remains an issue threatening an operation’s viability and reputation, precisely why restaurant leaders such as Carey take the issue seriously and follow best practices.

The importance of being honest

Though alcohol sales remain a key revenue stream for restaurants, operators cannot allow the push for profits to overrun responsible business. While not an official federal statute, the 21-year-old drinking age is common among all 50 states, and penalties for noncompliance can run high.

In Oregon, for instance, a first offense of bringing alcohol to a minor can bring a $1,500 fine, while an escalating penalty schedule further drops the hammer. If an operation garners a second offense within the next two years, the fine can reach $5,000; a third offense could bring a 30-day liquor license suspension; and a fourth offense could jeopardize the establishment’s license.

“Even so, I’m not sure the vast majority of operators recognize just how great their liability is,” says Clay Hosh, the National Restaurant Association’s (nra) ServSafe Alcohol master trainer.

Beyond penalties, a strict, responsible alcohol service policy is merely the right thing to do, as negligent service can endanger others’ health, safety, and futures. By abiding by the law and insisting on compliance, restaurants show themselves as responsible corporate citizens intent on running a professional operation.



Yeah, it's a problem!  But it's a bigger problem if you have a reputation of being a little lax.  If you don't always check then word get around faster than the word of God and you are going to get nailed.  In many cases tenders and servers know they are serving minors.  You first line of defense is your employees.  Let each of them know that serving a buddy could close your establishment and put everyone out of a job. 


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