Managers' "Need-to-Know" Library

Incident Reports

An incident report is your record of a situation that has occurred within your establishment and how it was handled. It is important to complete an incident report while details are still fresh in everyone's mind as it may be used as evidence if the situation becomes a legal matter.

An Incident Report should be completed when:

  • An intoxicated guest is refused service
  • A minor presents false ID
  • A guest becomes violent or a fight breaks out
  • Any time a guest is asked by staff to leave
  • You arrange transportation for an intoxicated guest
  • A liquor inspector visits your establishment
  • A guest has an accident or becomes ill
  • Police are called

An Incident Report should include:

  • The date
  • The time of the incident
  • Information on what happened
  • List of servers on duty
  • Manager on duty
  • Name of guest (physical description if name not available)
  • Type/style of clothing
  • Attitude
  • Condition of guest (note signs of intoxication if applicable)
  • Details about other guests in the party
  • Witnesses (their name and address if possible)
  • Information on whether the guest was driving
  • Photocopy of guest's sales slip or guest check
  • Steps taken to ensure safe trip home (i.e. alternative transportation)
  • If false ID was provided, how was it handled?
  • Details of any police involvement
  • Any other important details
  • Follow-up information that relates to the situation.

An Incident Reporting Log may be purchased from Smart Serve by those registered for an Organization account or through the order form found in the organization training section.

Handling Intoxicated Guests

Although guests should never be allowed to reach a state of intoxication, there are occasions where it will happen. More than ever, it has become the responsibility of licensed establishments to get guests home safely. Here are some ways you can do that:

Train servers to "chat and check" all guests whenever possible.

Encourage your servers to conduct a "chat and check" as soon as the guest enters the establishment. This will allow your staff to pick up more information and facts about their guests including:

  • Is the guest driving?
  • Is there a designated driver?
  • How are they feeling?
  • What is their mood?
  • Have they been drinking prior to entering your establishment?
  • Talk to the guest's companions

If there is a sober companion in the group, find out if they can arrange to get the guest home safely. If this is not an option, ask if there is a friend or relative that you can call who can pick up your intoxicated guest and provide safe transportation.

Tip: Remember, if a guest continues to drink right up to the time he or she leaves your premises, their BAC level may not have reached its peak. In fact, it may still be rising. This could make the difference between it being safe or unsafe for that guest to drive.

Source professional designated driver programs:

There are several licensed professional designated driver programs, such as Keys to Us, which will drive your guests and their car home.

Check with companies in your area for rates and see if they can provide promotional information that you can post at your establishment.

Arrange for a taxi service. Consider:

  • A direct line and a house account with a taxi company
  • Establishing a good relationship with a reputable cab company
  • Offer to advertise the taxi company's number for free in your establishment if they offer you "front of the line" service.
  • Have bus and subway route information available.
  • Print schedules and have them readily available for your customers.
  • Make arrangements for large groups in advance of the event.
  • If your establishment is hosting a large group or a special event, ask the host what arrangements have been made to get guests home safely.
  • For holiday season events, look for programs in your area that provide free rides home in the guest's own vehicle.

Controlling The Door

Overcrowding (includes both staff and guests) and lack of door control can put your establishment at risk and the public in danger.

Here are some tips to control the door and prevent overcrowding:

  • Keep the exterior areas of your establishment well lit and maintained and keep overflow guests lined up in an orderly manner.
  • Liquor Licence holders are expected to have in place reasonable measures and make reasonable efforts to deter or minimize the harm caused by disorderly conduct by their patrons to outside areas in the vicinity of their licensed premises. This applies to adjacent areas and line-ups to get into a licensed establishment, such as at a nightclub.
  • Keep parking lots and sidewalks neat and tidy and check lighting on a regular basis.
  • Control and monitor overflow guests by having them form an orderly line on the sidewalk rather than allowing them to gather as a group outside your doors.
  • Don't let intoxicated guests into your establishment.
  • Post a sign that indicates that management reserves the right to deny entry to intoxicated individuals.
  • Assign a staff member to the door who has been trained in responsible service practices.

Well-trained staff with the proper attitude and demeanor can help to maintain order and head off potential problems.

Door staff should:

  • have the skills to be able to check ID for underage drinkers and fraudulent cards
  • monitor washrooms
  • handle potential issues in a calm but firm manner without escalating situations
  • be well trained in the use of force and how and when to eject a guest

Note: If your establishment hires a private security service, or you have employees whose primary job is to provide security, they must be trained in under Bill 159, The Private Security and Investigative Services Act

Conduct regular checks of the parking lot areas.

Watch or remotely monitor parking lot areas for cars where guests may be drinking before they enter your establishment.

If you spot individuals who have been drinking, do not allow them into your establishment as you have no way of knowing how much they have had to drink prior to arriving at your establishment.

Train staff to recognize and address potentially aggressive guests.

Everyone in your establishment should be trained to keep an eye on aggressive, obnoxious or agitated guests.

Train staff to issue a friendly but firm warning or look of disapproval that sends an early message that bad behavior will not be tolerated. Most guests will respond positively and the problem will be solved before it has the chance to escalate.

If a guest refuses to comply with a warning either ask them to leave or do not allow them to enter the establishment.

Do regular "people counts" to prevent overcrowding.

Your liquor sales licence notes the number of people who are permitted to be in your establishment at any given time. This number includes both staff and guests. If you exceed that number, you risk being charged with an offence and putting the public in danger.

You can prevent overcrowding by:

  • monitoring the number of people as they arrive and leave to ensure that you are within the capacity limits for your establishment
  • assigning an employee to the patio area to monitor guests to ensure it does not become overcrowded
  • Develop a good working relationship with liquor inspectors and police officers

It is your responsibility to give on-duty liquor inspectors and police officers your full cooperation at all times when they arrive at your premises. Keep in mind that they can provide you with valuable advice and, if a situation occurs, you can feel comfortable calling them for help.

Train staff on ID checking procedures.

Make sure staff are familiar with what is acceptable ID for your establishment:

  • share examples of fake IDs at pre-shift or staff meetings
  • run through scenarios or role playing with staff where they handle ID checks
  • use your DVD training package to reinforce or refresh training for existing staff

Consider following a "staggered closing" process.

If your establishment is a large venue (i.e. nightclub), consider starting to close sections or rooms gradually as closing time approaches rather than closing the entire establishment at the same time. This strategy can reduce the number of people leaving your establishment at the same time, along with the accompanying noise and potential problems.

Preventing Fights & Aggression

Most fights start because one or more individuals have become intoxicated. It's up to you and your staff to keep drinking under control. Learn to look for the warning signs that a fight may break out.

There are lots of reasons to stop aggression before it gets out of control. Here are just a few:

  • Customers and staff are less likely to get injured
  • Less risk of damage to the premises
  • Lower risk of lawsuits

How do you put a lid on guests who want to blow off steam? Follow these practices:

Assess Your Workplace

  • Consider using plastic instead of glass for drinks for "high risk" events
  • Train staff to remove bottles from tables regularly
  • Do not include knives or swords as part of a display
  • Be aware that pool cues can be used as weapons
  • Ensure that all staff are trained on how to prevent aggression and know what to do if a fight breaks out

Stop the Fight Before It Starts

  • Have enough staff on duty to properly monitor guests
  • Train staff to be on the lookout for early trouble signs like escalating arguments that can lead to physical fights
  • Train staff to look for physical signs of intoxication (i.e. slurred speech, poor coordination) and body language that suggests anger or aggression (i.e. staring, clenched fists or teeth, hands across chest)

Act as a Team

  • Assess the situation before approaching a guest
  • Train staff to ‘tag team' when dealing with a problem situation. Never allow a single employee to approach a guest without ‘backup' from at least one other employee who can step in or get additional help if necessary
  • Tell staff to always stay in control of the situation and to try to manage their anger even if provoked

Use Security Staff

  • Have enough security for the size of crowd you expect
  • Avoid situations that can cause aggression to rise such as overcrowding and long line-ups
  • Hire and retain staff who are personable, can deal with guests and prevent trouble without resorting to aggression

Develop Safe Practices in the Event of a Fight
If a guest becomes aggressive or if a weapon appears:

  • Call the police immediately
  • Move other guests away from the area
  • Keep a safe distance from the guest and keep barriers (i.e. chairs/table) between you and the guest
  • Never use force that can cause harm unless it is in self-defense and then only if there is some danger from the aggressive person
  • If two guests are involved in a dispute, do not let them leave together as the fight will likely continue outside and you will be held accountable

The Ups and Downs of Intoxication

When a guest becomes intoxicated, everything changes – and not for the better. Take a look at the typical behaviours that go along with having too much to drink, and how these "ups and downs" can lead to aggression, unpredictability and fights.

What goes UP: What goes DOWN
  • Emotion
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggression
  • Concern about consequences or dangers
  • Thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to assess the situation accurately
  • Coping skills
  • Ability to see other viewpoints and perspectives

Risk Assessments

Under the Occupier's Liability Act, you have a duty to ensure that your establishment is reasonably safe. The Occupier's Liability Act says:

  • Licensees must be alert to the risk caused by serving alcohol.
  • Even situations that would not generally be considered dangerous require extra attention if intoxicated guests could be exposed to them.

Alcohol-related occupiers' liability cases address three situations:

  • Conditions of the premises
  • Conduct of staff/guests on the premises
  • Activities that are permitted on the premises

Risk Assessments can help you to identify these potential risks, prevent problems from occurring and help you avoid legal action.

Review the Liquor Licence Act and its Regulations.

By taking a look at the Liquor Licence Act you can ensure that your policies meet or exceed the minimum standards. It can also help you develop or adapt your policies and procedures to focus on areas of higher risk. Areas that affect staff and guest safety should be a top priority.

Make it a team effort.

Choose a few key staff members to help you conduct the Risk Assessment so you can be sure that nothing gets missed.

Update your Assessment on a regular basis.

Like any workplace, the risks of your establishment can change over time.

Update your Risk Assessment document on a regular basis.

Conduct an Assessment every six months or more often if there have been any major changes to staff, policies or procedures.

Alcohol Service Policy Tips

What is a House Alcohol Service Policy?

It's a series of guidelines and/or rules supporting your staff and informing patrons about responsible alcohol service. These same guidelines let your patrons know what they can expect from your establishment. A short form policy that is 7 to 10 key points and can be contained on one sheet or poster for patrons while a long form policy can be developed for staff only, going into greater detail about what is expected from staff in a variety of situations.

What should a typical house alcohol policy include?

It should include a general statement or mission that outlines your commitment to responsible alcohol service. Staff policies should clearly set out management's expectations on:

  • code of conduct
  • responsibility and accountability
  • monitoring of doors and tables
  • checking ID's
  • managing intoxicated patrons
  • when and how to report incidents

These statements should reinforce the LLA and the common law; for example, confirming that it's against the law to:

  • serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 19
  • allow entry to anyone who is already intoxicated
  • serve alcohol to anyone approaching intoxication

Why is it important to have a house alcohol policy?

It provides staff and guests with clear and consistent guidelines on your establishment's approach to responsible service. A well written policy does the following:

  • educates patrons as to what is the law
  • supports your staff in difficult situations
  • if the policy is clearly known by your staff and visible to your patrons it may help if a lawsuit occurs

The most important point about house policies is that staff and management need to follow through on them. For example: allowing one person to continue drinking when service should be stopped can only lead to trouble with that person and any other patron who witnesses it.

Why is it important that house policies be posted for all to see?

Clearly written and visible polices serve as a reminder to all, of your commitment to comply with the law:

  • a policy may be the only information patrons get on the law of alcohol service
  • patrons may take more responsibility for how much they drink if they know what is expected
  • the policy tells patrons what will happen if they do drink too much

It is recommended that the policy be posted at the door/entrance, at all points of sale; in the washrooms; and even as table tents on tables.

House Policies

A policy is a written plan or a course of action that guides and supports your staff and management by giving them clear and consistent guidelines to carry out your establishment's philosophy of responsible beverage service. Here are some guidelines to follow when creating a written policy:

Conduct a Risk Assessment.

This will help you identify problem areas and incidents that could happen so you can set policies on how to handle them.

For more information on Risk Assessments click here.

Develop a goal statement. Developing a goal or mission statement for responsible alcohol beverage service can help you achieve your establishment's overall commitment to responsible beverage service.

Develop your establishment's goal statement together with staff.

Post the goal statement in a visible location as a reminder to staff and guests of your commitment to responsible beverage service. Here is an example of a goal statement:

"This establishment supports the Smart Serve Training Program. The goal of our establishment is to serve our guests in a responsible, friendly and professional manner. Our staff will assist guests to drink in moderation and provide a safe and enjoyable atmosphere."

Prepare a list of all the policies you think your establishment may need.

Most establishments will create two types of house policies – one for guests and one for staff. When developing either policy, ask yourself whether your document promotes responsible alcohol beverage service principles. Your House Policies should be:

  • Positive, simple and easy to update
  • Simple and easy for guests, management and staff to follow
  • Realistic for the size and style of your establishment
  • Posted in a visible location for all guests, management and staff to see
  • Implemented, enforced and reviewed regularly during orientation and refresher training

Get input from staff and fellow managers.

Seek and share ideas with your fellow managers and employees when writing a House Policy. Employees will be more supportive of the policies they helped to create.

Communicate your Server House Policy to all staff.

A Server House Policy clearly spells out a server's responsibilities and your expectations so that servers do not have to make difficult judgment calls about who to serve or how to handle a challenging situation. Make sure you clearly communicate house policies and procedures to your staff. Here are some ideas for communicating your message:

  • Post on the bulletin board or staff room
  • Provide new employees with a detailed explanation of your House Policy – Include it as a sign-off sheet in Orientation packages
  • Regularly review your Policy at meetings or training sessions
  • Integrate the standards included in the House Policy into performance reviews. Reward employees who meet or exceed the standards set out in the house policy.

Communicate your Guest House Policy to your guests.

Post your house policies where guests can see them. If they know the rules, they will also know when they have broken them. At the same time, it allows servers to reference the House Policy as a reason not to serve an intoxicated guest.

Review your House Policy with your liquor inspector, the police and your insurance company.

Sharing your House Policy with these groups shows your commitment to safe alcohol service and meeting the requirements of the law.

Review your House Policy on a regular basis.

Your policies should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they are updated to reflect changes in your establishment and the legislation.

Communicating With Your Employees

Once your team hits the floor, it's important to ensure that communication remains strong. Here are some helpful tips:

Encourage communication between staff, customers, and management.

Train staff to communicate your alcohol policy to customers.
Encourage staff to inform you of potential problems before they become difficult situations.

Adapt your approach to your shift.

Think strategically about how you approach every shift. Ask yourself:

  • Are you expecting any special events like a televised UFC match or hockey play-off that will bring in a specific demographic or age group?
  • Is there a conference or city event that will increase traffic through your doors?

By making sure that your staffing, chain of command and security measures match the circumstances, you'll ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

Ask for staff feedback and involvement.

Since your staff is on the front lines, they have a finger on the pulse of your business. It makes good sense to take advantage of that knowledge by asking your employees for their ideas and strategies to improve alcohol service and prevent intoxication. Besides making your employees feel valued, getting their involvement can help you obtain a wealth of information from the front lines and develop a lasting rapport.

Conduct a daily post-mortem of the previous day's incidents.

Take the time to talk to staff about incidents that have happened the day prior and discuss how they might be prevented from happening again.

Be a role model.

As a Manager, you are the role model for your staff.

Make sure that you follow the same safe alcohol service practices within your establishment that you share with your staff and that you back up the decisions of your staff.

Communicate a zero tolerance for drinking on the job or after stop-service time.

One of the most common charges laid by AGCO inspectors is for staff drinking after stop-service time.

Protect yourself and your establishment by prohibiting drinking on the job or after work and let staff know that it is cause for immediate dismissal.

There are lots of good reasons to discourage staff drinking:

If staff are intoxicated on the job, their judgment will likely be impaired, causing them to make poor decisions, creating possible health and safety hazards that could have a negative impact on your liquor licence. Drinking outside of designated hours of operation is a Liquor License Act infraction.

Communicate on-going safe alcohol service reminders.

Show your staff how important safe alcohol service is. Keep it top-of-mind each and every day by:

  • Posting a daily safe alcohol service reminder to staff on a bulletin board or in the staff room
  • Posting the BAC charts in prominent spots where staff can review them
  • Attaching a safe alcohol service reminder to the bottom of all written communication to staff, including text messages and emails

Ongoing Training

Keeping safe alcohol service top-of-mind with your staff and your customers should be a top priority for your business. Here's how you can ensure that everyone shares your on-going commitment:

Keep on top of changes to alcohol-related legislation.

When you applied for your liquor license, you likely learned about the laws that apply to alcohol. However, there may have been amendments and revisions since that time.

Take the time to check in regularly with the AGCO and Smart Serve websites and subscribe to any publications or newsletters that provide updated information on requirements and changing legislation.

Make sure that any changes to legislation are shared with your entire staff by:

  • Posting updates on the staff bulletin board
  • Reviewing at staff meetings
  • Asking each staff member to read the updates and sign-off that they have read it.

Add a safe alcohol service message to your pre-shift huddles or staff meetings.

A great way to keep safe alcohol service front and centre is to remind staff about it every shift. Take the time to come up with quick reminders, tips and information that you can share at staff meetings and pre-shift huddles.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Review the signs of intoxication before the shift
  • Discuss the alcohol content for different types of drinks
  • Share a recent court case or AGCO decision from the AGCO website
  • Ask staff to share any challenging situations from the previous day and how they handled it
  • Play one of the DVD role-plays from the Smart Serve training or watch one of the Smart Serve Moments videos and ask staff to decide how they would handle it
  • Choose a topic from the Smart Serve program (i.e. Roles and Responsibilities, using the BAC Charts) and review with staff
  • Have staff role-play a particular situation (i.e. an intoxicated or aggressive guest) and how they would handle it

Provide staff with yearly Smart Serve refresher training.

Many of your staff may have taken their Smart Serve training months – even years – ago.

Organize once-a-year Smart Serve refresher course that uses components from the Smart Serve training to keep all your staff up-to-date on changes to legislation and ideas for ensuring safe service.

Orienting New Employees

A well-trained staff with a clear understanding of safe alcohol practices is the first and most important aspect of preventing intoxication and liability. That process starts on Day One. Here are some tips for conducting an effective orientation:

Allow adequate time to cover the material.

  • Don't rush through the content. Take the time to show your new employee how important safe service is to your establishment
  • Remind the new employee that responsible alcohol practices are not limited to the information discussed in the orientation
  • Always allow time for your new employee to ask any questions

Personalize the orientation.

  • Every establishment is different, with its own culture and guests
  • Describe your establishment, the typical customer and what they can expect when serving your guests
  • Give your new employee an idea of your own experiences in relation to responsible serving practices

Check your new employee's current knowledge of safe alcohol service. It is not enough for staff to show their Smart Serve certificate. For your protection, and theirs, they have to understand their legal responsibilities when serving guests.

Ask questions based on materials found in the Smart Serve training program such as "Can you tell me three signs of intoxication?" to check their current level of knowledge.

Review your Staff and Guest Alcohol House Policies.

Take the time to let your new employee know their rights and responsibilities by thoroughly reviewing both your Staff and Guest Alcohol House Policies.

Ask new employees to sign the Safe Alcohol Server Policy and keep it on file.

Promote a teamwork atmosphere.

Remind your employee that safe service is a team effort and encourage them to share any incidents or suggestions they might have on ensuring safe alcohol service in your establishment.

Let your employee know that you will support any decisions that they make regarding whether or not to serve alcohol to a guest.

Establish a buddy system.

The first few days on the job can be intimidating for any new employee.

To get your new employee off to the right start, have them "shadow" an experienced server and watch how they handle different alcohol-related situations.

Encourage your new employee to ask questions and use their "buddy" as a resource as they learn the ropes.

Motivating Staff Even in Tough Times

Michelle White is a Human Resources Professor at Fanshawe College in London Ontario where she designs and teaches courses in training, supervision and performance management. Here she tackles the issue of employee motivation:

What is motivation? I have heard people say "you can't motivate people, they have to motivate themselves" is that true?

If you define motivation it really is anything that stirs someone to take action toward a desired goal. As a manager you cannot force someone to take the action, what you can do is make the goal so appealing that they want to move toward it. It is like the carrot and stick approach. The goal of the manager is to find out what type of "carrot" will motivate a particular employee. Typically the right "carrot" will be anything the employee values. The important thing for a manager to do is figure out what that is.

What are the 3 most important things a Manager can do to ensure staff is motivated day to day?

In my workshops on motivation many of the managers I talk to are looking for that one tip or technique or "silver bullet" they can use to help them keep their employees motivated. What they realize rather quickly is that there is no one best solution. Motivation really is a moving target. The good news is there are some best practices you can follow to make sure you are hitting the mark. I recommend:

  • Set clear goals for your employees
  • Provide specific, timely feedback
  • Ask your employees what they value, not once, but often because it changes over time

What are the most common motivation blockers?

The most common motivation blockers usually come from management practices that can have a negative impact on your employees such as:

  • Unclear expectations
  • Unnecessary criticism especially in front of customers or other employees
  • Perceived unfair treatment
  • Not allowing your employees to make a decision
  • Assuming that the only thing that motivates your employee is money

How do you keep staff motivated over time, i.e. day in day out, year over year? Even in tougher times when tips may be lower?

The key to keeping your staff motivated over time is to realize that motivating your employees is not an isolated event; it should be the focus of your daily management activities. Your goal should be to determine what each of your employee's values and provide it for them. Remember, it is not the same for everyone. People value different things at different life stages and life circumstances. For example; a person just entering the work force may value money because it gives them financial independence and the means to buy things they desire. As they mature and, let's say, start a family, they may value other things like benefits or even time off to spend with family. Even if an employee is in a certain stage in their lives they do not all value the same things and, to make it even more complicated, they can change what they value from day to day. The best way to keep staff motivated over time is to get to know them, and ask them what they value.

Many of us believe that motivating staff is an isolated event, something that we need to do outside of the regular day to day of managing our people. In reality managing your employees' performance can take you a long way in motivating your staff.

All of the suggestions listed will go a long way toward motivating your staff. If you have a motivated staff what you will discover is they have a sense of loyalty to working for you. This will help you keep good people over time, even when times are tough.

In these tough economic times I don't have any extra money to provide different incentives for my employees. What are some "no money motivators?"

There are many creative ways to provide ongoing incentives for employees. In general you want to look for ways to add appreciation, fun, variety, challenges and responsibility into the employee's day. For example:

  • Regular praise for a job well done
  • Acknowledging a personal milestone such as someone's birthday

Your Role & Responsibilities

As a Manager, you have a responsibility to your guests and your employees to provide responsible alcohol service. Here's how you can create a responsible service culture within your workplace:

Management Commitment

As a Manager, your employees view you as a role model, and look to you for guidance and support.

Walk the walk by following the same policies, procedures and standards that you have taught to your employees.

Back-up staff decisions of stopping service to any guest that they feel is intoxicated. This shows that you respect and support their efforts.

Clear roles and responsibilities for employees.

All employees must be Smart Serve trained before they can serve alcohol in Ontario. However, simply having a Smart Serve certificate is not enough. It's up to you to ensure that any employee that you hire has a clear idea of their roles and responsibilities, and has the skills and knowledge to provide safe service.

Safe service orientation

First impressions mean a lot. When you make safe service a focus of your orientation, you let your new employee know that you take it seriously. See Orienting New Employees for tips and strategies on how to make sure your employees have the skills to succeed.

Clear policies for serving and selling alcohol. Goal statements and House Policies are proactive tools that can help keep your establishment safe for guests and employees.

Take the time to develop and share clear guidelines and standards for your establishment.

See House Policies for detailed information about these tools.

Strategies for monitoring guests and preventing aggression.

To be successful, you and your staff need to know how to prevent intoxication, and understand the intervention steps to take if a problem situation arises. See Preventing Fights and Aggression for more information.