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Staff training for the sale and supply of alcohol

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Having a formal staff training plan in place is not a legal requirement of the sale & supply of alcohol act but it is something you will be required to outline when you undergo your liquor licence renewal.

A training plan provides staff with clear roles and responsibilities and develops service that will ensure that staff are successful in implementing your host responsibility practices and meeting your obligations under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

The object of the Act is to ensure the sale and supply of alcohol is undertaken safely and responsibly. Training in this area will comprise part of an employee’s initial induction as well as ongoing instruction for all staff. As a tool to assist members to implement a staff training plan, we outline some of the key considerations when formulating one for your premises.


Staff should know how to recognise signs of intoxication, methods of preventing intoxication, and know the steps they need to take if dealing with an intoxicated person.

1  What happens if an intoxicated person tries to enter the premises?

Staff should know that they are required by law (and failure may result in them, and the manager and owner, receiving a fine) to:

  • Prevent anyone becoming intoxicated
  • Refuse service to anyone who is intoxicated
  • Ensure intoxicated customers leave the premises
  • Prevent intoxicated persons from entering premises
  • Remove violent, quarrelsome, insulting or disorderly customers from the premises

2  How do you recognise intoxication?

Training should be provided to all staff on recognising typical intoxication indicators. The law says that a person is intoxicated when they are affected by alcohol or drugs, or other substances, to such a degree that two or more of the following are evident:

  • Speech is impaired (slurring, difficulty forming words, loud, repetitive, loss of train of thought, nonsensical, unintelligible)
  • Coordination is impaired (spills drinks, trips, weaves, walks into things, unable to stand or sit straight)
  • Appearance is affected (bloodshot eyes, eyes glazed, unable to focus, tired, asleep, dishevelled)
  • Behaviour is impaired (inappropriate actions or language, aggressive, rude, belligerent, obnoxious)

3  How do you monitor a customer’s consumption?

Provide tips on a servers role in monitoring the effect of of alcohol on customers – things like talking with the customer/building a rapport, monitoring glass collection.

4  How can you prevent intoxication?

Staff also need to know techniques for preventing intoxication. This may be the encouragement of low or non-alcoholic beverages, or food. Providing water alongside their drink or slowing down service are also useful techniques.

5  What do you do if you think someone is intoxicated?

It needs to be made clear at what point a staff member should involve management and others about what is going on. What is the policy on who can refuse service – is this communicated to a customer by the manager, or the server? Whose responsibility is it to remove a customer from the premises or to a place of safety (and do all staff know where that place is)?

Minors on the premises

Depending on your liquor licence, people under the age of 18 may be allowed on the premises, but they will not be able to purchase alcohol under any circumstances.

1  Explain the designation of the premise’s liquor licence and what that means.

If the licence is undesignated or supervised explain that people under the age of 18 are allowed on the premises, and may even be able to drink on the premises, but only if the alcohol is purchased for them by a parent or legal guardian. Outline the definition of a legal guardian – it’s not just an older person with them, it is a legal status and customers will be responsible for establishing proof of the relationship.

2  If they look underage what is the policy?

Many premises will have a policy to ask anyone who looks under the age of 25 to provide ID. Servers need to be clear that there are no exceptions to your establishment policy and be made aware of the potential consequences, for them, and the business, for serving to a minor.

3  ID – what proof of age is allowed?

There are only three types of acceptable forms of ID outlined in the sale and supply of alcohol regulations. These are, a current passport (New Zealand or overseas), a New Zealand photo drivers licence, an approved 18+ evidence of age card. Staff need to be aware they can (and must) refuse any other types of identification.

4  Date of birth – calculating the age correctly.

Do you have a sign to help ensure servers identify the correct age? If you do, make sure they know where to find it. This is useful as you don’t need to rely on a staff member’s mathematics skills and it can easily be updated daily. If you don’t do this, ensure servers are comfortable with making this calculation on their own (today’s date, subtract 18; anyone born after that date is under age).

5  Checking ID.

Do you have a procedure for checking ID? Go through this process and outline tips for spotting a fake ID.

  • Check the date of birth first – you may not need to go any further than that point
  • Hold the ID and feel for: raised edges around the photo, bumpy surfaces, irregular lamination, cuts, slits, or pin holes, peeling lamination or uneven corners, thickness and quality of the ID
  • Check the photo: look at the person first and try and identify distinguishing features, then look at the photo – do they match?
  • Shine a torch behind the photo and date of birth.
  • If in doubt you can ask for a second piece of ID, or get them to sign, then check their signature

6  What do you if it is suspected the ID is fake?

Be clear on the procedure at this point. In all cases the ID should be retained and the involvement of the manager should be requested.

Low & non-alcoholic beverage options

1  What options are available?

Are staff as familiar with the range of low and non alcoholic drinking options as they are with your wine list’s other beverage options? Have a quiz to see if they know the range and talk through ways of promoting these options.

2  Drinking water.

The Act specifies that free drinking water must be readily available for customers. Ensure all staff know where to direct customers, if a water station is set up in a particular area of the premises, or what the policy for promoting and providing free water is if it is accessible from the bar.

3  Does the business have a policy for offering these options as part of your host responsibility plan?

If so staff need to be trained on when and how these options may be encouraged for designated drivers or subtly suggested to customers who need to slow down their alcohol consumption.

Food options

A range of substantial food options need to be available at all times that the premises is still operating.

1  Ensure that all staff are aware that food items are available at all times, even after the kitchen may be closed for service of main meals.

Make it clear that it is not acceptable to say that the kitchen is closed. If the business is still open then menu items need to be available, although it may be a different menu. Quiz staff to see how familiar they are with the late night or snacks food items and on promoting this menu.

2  Train staff on the reasons for, and how to go about, encouraging the consumption of food when customers are consuming alcohol.

Transport options

An on-licence holder must ensure that there is free, readily available, comprehensive and accurate information about the forms of transport that are available from the premises.

1  What alternative forms of transport can customers use when leaving the premises?

Make staff aware that it is their responsibility to provide information on alternative transport options and make arrangements for customers if necessary. Ensure all staff know where they can find this information and if you have a relationship with a particular transport provider. What is the business’ policy – will you provide the customer with business cards and let them phone themselves, or will your staff do that for them?

2  What is the policy if a server is concerned about ensuring a customer gets home safely?

These are just some of the key areas that may form the basis of your staff training with regards to the sale and supply of alcohol. Ensure that your training plan is regularly reviewed and updated, and be consistent with retraining existing staff to ensure they get regular a refresher of information on your premises policy.

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