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Results of a Randomized Trial of the Way To Serve Responsible Alcohol Server Training

Results of a Randomized Trial of the Way To Serve Responsible Alcohol Server Training

Alcohol use and misuse is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Alcohol servers may help prevent alcohol-impaired car accidents and other harms by discouraging overconsumption by patrons. Responsible beverage service (RBS) training is designed to improve serving behavior, especially by avoiding selling too many drinks to a patron, refusing sales to intoxicated patrons, and properly checking identification to prevent sales to minors. Positive evaluations of RBS programs have been reported, yet online technologies hold promise for improving training quality, fidelity, cost, and uptake.

In a recent publication in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugsresearchers led by Klein Buendel (KB) Senior Scientist, Dr. W. Gill Woodall, reported the results of a randomized trial of the media-rich, interactive web-based WayToServe® (WTS) RBS training. The study hypothesized that servers who completed the WTS training would refuse alcohol service to apparently-intoxicated patrons at significantly higher rates compared with servers who completed the usual and customary (UC) live training.

In the study, alcohol-serving establishments (such as bars) in New Mexico were randomly assigned to receive WTS training (n=154) or the UC live training (n=155). Establishments were assessed before training, immediately after training, at six months after training, and at one year after training with a pseudo-intoxicated patron protocol (in which buyers were trained to enacting documented behavioral signs of intoxication) to assess premise alcohol service during early to mid-evening hours. The primary outcome variable for the assessment was the proportion of apparently-intoxicated buyers who were refused alcohol service.

Results indicated significantly higher refusal rates for WTS than for UC premises at the immediate (WTS=68% vs. UC=49%) and the one-year post-training assessment points (WTS=68% vs. UC=58%), but not at the six-month post-training assessment (WTS=69% vs. UC=64%). Results also indicated that younger pseudo-patrons were consistently refused more often than older pseudo-patrons. The study concluded that RBS training can be delivered online, broadening the scale of distribution and making it a potentially more cost-effective way to reach alcohol servers with effective and beneficial RBS training.

A full description of the methods, results, and limitations of this study, as well as commentaries by Buvik & Rossow (2018) and Miller (2018), and an author response, can be found in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

The research was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA014982; W. Gill Woodall, Principal Investigator) at the National Institutes of Health. Collaborators/coauthors includeDr. Randall Starling from the University of New Mexico, Dr. Robert Saltz from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in California, Dr. David Buller from KB, and Dr. Paula Stranghetta from Paula Stanghetta & Associates, Inc. in Ontario, Canada. KB’s Creative Team produced the WayToServe® web-based training. WayToServe® has been licensed to Wedge Communications LLC for commercial sale and distribution.

Collaborator Spotlight:
Dr. Robert Saltz

Collaborator Spotlight:
Dr. Robert Saltz

Robert Saltz, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) in Berkeley, California.

He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts. His research explores ways in which drinking context may influence the risk of subsequent injury or death. He has extensive experience researching “responsible beverage service” programs aimed at having bar and restaurant personnel intervene with patrons to reduce the risk of intoxication or driving while impaired.

Dr. Saltz collaborated with Dr. David Buller and Dr. Gill Woodall at Klein Buendel (KB) on the development, trial, and commercialization of the WayToServe® responsible beverage service training program funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA; W. Gill Woodall, Principal Investigator).

Currently, Dr. Saltz is working with KB on two projects. He serves as a collaborating scientist with Dr.  Woodall on WayToServe Español: A Culturally-Appropriate Online Responsible Beverage Service Training for Spanish-Speaking Servers (MD010405; W. Gill Woodall, Principal Investigator). For this project, he will assist with the creation of culturally-appropriate content and advise on the recruitment of alcohol sales premises.  This study will systematically translate and test an alcohol server training intervention (WayToServe Español). The research will explore overcoming dissemination barriers with ethnically diverse and Spanish speaking restaurant and bar workers.  The team will tailor it to be culturally specific and compatible with the values and needs of the employees, simple to adopt, accessible for trial, and observable in direct benefits and effects on responsible alcohol services. The randomized control trial will take place at Spanish-dominant businesses in the Southwestern region of the United States.

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