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Responsible sales & service: the 21st century approach: responsibility in action retailers and restaurant operators share their formulas for enacting responsible sales and service.

Businesses are responsible for giving customers what they want. In the beverage alcohol industry, this takes on added meaning. Operators can also have a moral and legal obligation to inform guests about the potential dangers of what they buy. They must also watch for signs of overconsumption, underage sales and and unruly fellow patrons.

Retailers, bars and restaurants take these issues very seriously. The majority of them conduct employee training and have strict sales and service guidelines. But the effectiveness of their programs can depend largely on the level of corporate involvement. The most successful initiatives make responsibility part of the company mantra. From the top to the bottom of an organization--and everywhere in between--on-and off-premise operators understand the challenges of responsible sales and service and have a good handle on the solutions.

"Management's involvement is absolutely imperative," says Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Century Council. "It is important for the CEOs of larger companies to talk about major themes and the challenges employees lace. Look at how Lee lacocca being the face of Chrysler brought the brand back."

Blackman points to Chevy's, a restaurant chain that went so far as to make responsibility part of its branded color scheme. "All the graphics are black, white or red, including a 'Stop' sign that says they don't serve underage customers. They also fit the message into the wait staffs uniforms."

Blackman concedes that there is no foolproof means of assuring that employees will act responsibly. But training and community initiatives can go a long way. "While there is little definitive research on the long-term impact of server training, increases in server knowledge do reduce the risks of patrons becoming too intoxicated," he adds.

There are also liabilities tied to responsible service. While rules vary by state, nobody wants to dole out cash if it is not needed. "I don't think there's a business owner out there who wants to put their business in jeopardy over a bad sale. ... We believe at the producer level that being responsible is a competitive advantage," says Blackman.

In the following pages five retailers, bars and restaurants talk openly and honestly about the challenges of operating responsibly and how they address them. Issues range from dealing with intoxicated wedding guests to making sure that underage kids don't buy beer kegs. Operators include individual owners, control state stores and chains.
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Author:Garbato, Debby
Date:Sep 1, 2010
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