Should your catering business serve alcohol? Author Icon Written by Trusted Choice Author Icon
Written by Trusted Choice

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stylish champagne glasses and food appetizers set up by catering business

Take a Sober Look at Serving Alcohol

Are you intoxicated at the thought of including alcoholic drinks on your catering menu? There is no question that for entertainment and hospitality entities, including caterers, serving alcohol can be a significant source of revenue.

But choosing to serve alcohol comes with potential risks and complexities that you must consider before adding alcohol and service to your menu.

Here’s some food for thought about serving liquor as suggested by catering veterans:

  • What options will you present to the client? Cash bar or open? Wine and beer only? Full bar? Will the host prefer standard or top-shelf products? If wine is to be served, how much importance should you place on pairing it with the menu choices?
  • How will you estimate how much liquor will be consumed? These factors could affect your estimate: What type of event will it be—corporate cocktail hour or fraternity party? What time of year—hot or cold? Day of week and time of day— Friday night or Wednesday afternoon? What will the guest age-range be? 
  • How will you determine pricing? For a cash bar, will guests pay per drink at the bar or by tickets sold separately for drink redemption? For an open bar, will the client pay by the drink, by the bottle, per person or pay a set fee based on the number of serving hours?
  • How will guests be transported to the event? How might this affect the amount of alcohol consumed? Will you or the host be responsible to arrange transportation for intoxicated guests?

While these and other details are important for you and your clients to agree upon, there is one more key consideration that falls on your business directly—the risk of liquor liability loss. Over the last few years, increasing levels of responsibility have been placed on providers and servers of alcoholic beverages. Securing licenses and permits is only the beginning. State and local laws and regulations will determine just what activities may create the chance of loss, and how severe that loss may be.

And even if you are in full compliance with regulatory requirements, you still face potential liability for improper actions by yourself or your staff while serving alcoholic drinks to guests.

For example, has every employee who may serve drinks received the required or proper training? In addition to mixing and serving, servers must be able to recognize a guest’s level of intoxication and know when and how to cut them off. Do servers know the minimum drinking age and how to verify it before serving a guest? Have they been trained to recognize a fraudulent ID? Do they know what, if any, is your responsibility as the serving entity to provide safe transportation home for intoxicated guests? Do you know the risks to your business if you fail to assure any of the above? Do you know exactly how your insurance will respond, if at all, to liquor exposures?

If you decide to add alcohol to your catering menu, be sure to consult your Trusted Choice Agent® to discuss risk management and the liquor liability coverage you need. Cheers! 

What's One Drink?

What exactly constitutes “one drink”? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a “standard drink” contains 0.6 ounces (14 grams) of alcohol. The CDC cites the following typical examples that contain that amount:

  • Beer: 12 ounces (5% alcohol content).
  • Malt Liquor: 8 ounces (7% alcohol content).
  • Wine: 5 ounces (12% alcohol content).
  • Either 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor: 1.5 ounces (40% alcohol content).


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