ServSafe - Cut Off or Keep Serving? Know the Science, Follow the Clues

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Cut Off or Keep Serving? Know the Science, Follow the Clues

Cut Off or Keep Serving? Know the Science, Follow the Clues

April is Alcohol Awareness Month—the perfect time to review the factors that affect blood alcohol content (BAC). Knowing these factors helps you protect your guests, through your awareness of what can cause their BAC to rise too fast or too high.

Let’s visit a sports bar and eavesdrop on a bartender and his manager. See if you can identify the clues that can help them better understand the effect that alcohol has had on the bloodstreams of their guests.

Wyatt knocked on his manager’s door.

“Come in, Wyatt,” Shanice said. “What can I do for you?”

“I have two guests who have been here for a while and I’m not sure whether I should keep serving them. I was hoping you could give me some backup.”

“Absolutely,” Shanice said. “Tell me a little about them first.”

“I’ve been talking to them on and off. They came to watch the hockey game,” said Wyatt. “Binh seems pretty sober. He’s young—he’s a student over at the university and is on a wrestling scholarship. Big guy. Nikki is older, she said she went to school with his mom. They’re quite a contrast.  She’s short, he’s tall. She’s chunky; he’s lean. It really stands out.”

“It’s good that you talked to them and got to know them. That’s good guest service. What have they had to drink?”

“Nikki has been drinking whiskey. She had the first two straight, the second two mixed with cola. She’s also had a glass of caffeinated soda,” Wyatt recounted. “Binh has just been drinking beer on tap. He’s had four of them in the two hours they’ve been here.”

“And have they had anything to eat?”

“Binh has. He had our deluxe bacon burger and fried mozzarella sticks. Nikki said she didn’t want anything because she’s dieting.”

“How are they acting? Are they showing any signs of intoxication?”

“Nikki is. Her laughter has gotten louder and louder even as her team has been losing. She spilled her soda at one point, though that could have just been an accident. Binh took her cell phone from her as I was passing the table, telling her it was for her own good, because she’d regret texting her ex later. Binh seems just fine.”

“You’re making a good call, Wyatt. You should stop serving Nikki and slow down Binh’s service. How would you like me to support you? Would you like me to visit their table?”

Even though they’ve both had four drinks in the same amount of time, Nikki is clearly more intoxicated than Binh. Can you tell why Nikki’s BAC is likely higher than Binh’s?

Here are some of the factors that contribute to their state of sobriety:

  • Drink Strength. The more alcohol in a drink, the higher the BAC will be. Distilled spirits such as the whiskey Nikki was drinking range in alcohol by volume (ABV) by 20 percent to 40 percent. Beer typically has a much lower ABV range of 4 percent to 6 percent. Binh has actually consumed less alcohol even while having the same number of drinks.
  • Drink Quantity and Rate. The liver needs about an hour per drink to eliminate alcohol from the body. Both Binh and Nikki will have alcohol building up in the bloodstream and raising their BAC.
  • Body Size. Wyatt pointed out that Binh was much larger than Nikki. A smaller person like Nikki will have a higher BAC than a larger individual like Binh. Nikki’s body has less blood to dilute the alcohol compared to Binh’s.
  • Body Type. Binh, a wrestler, likely has a lot of muscle and a low body fat percentage. Body fat doesn’t absorb alcohol, which means Nikki, who was described as overweight, will have a higher BAC. Alcohol stays in the bloodstream until the liver breaks it down. Someone with less body fat will have a lower BAC because alcohol can pass through muscle and spread throughout the body.
  • Gender. Women tend to have higher BAC than men for three reasons. One, they generally have a higher percentage of body fat than men. Two, they have a smaller amount of the enzyme that helps break down alcohol. Three, they are often smaller than men and have less blood in their bodies.
  • Age. Older people, such as Nikki, will have a higher BAC than younger individuals because the enzymes that help break down alcohol tend to slow with age. Also, body fat increases with age.
  • Food. Nikki’s stomach was empty; this makes her BAC higher than that of Binh, who had eaten some high-fat foods. Food helps keep alcohol in the stomach, slowing the rate at which alcohol reaches the small intestine. High-fat foods digest more slowly than carbohydrates, which further slows the absorption process.
  • Carbonation. Nikki’s drinks were mixed with soda and she had another soda as well. Carbonated drinks speed up the rate at which alcohol passes from the stomach to the small intestine, making her BAC climb faster.

Recognizing these factors is critical so you can provide responsible alcohol service to your guests. Whether it is Alcohol Awareness Month or any other month, make sure you are always providing outstanding alcohol service at your establishment and keeping your guests safe. 

If you are looking to get ServSafe Alcohol certified, save 10% with coupon code: AWARENESS (valid from April 1-30).

If you would like to learn about how to bring ServSafe Alcohol solutions to your organization, contact our sales team.