Recently a big venue and then a big group both asked me what difference would the SAMS (Special Alcohol Management Service) course make to what they already do. So I thought I’d address this question here to let everyone know who’s interested and what makes application of SAMS a worthwhile endeavour.
The best way to begin this is to let you know that before SAMS was a training course for venues, it was a training course for staff that we’d bring on to work at venues. In the same way that security guards are hired via security companies to work at licensed venues, we used to have venues hire staff through us to manage their RSA and we’d provide them RSA Hosts (Marshals) trained through the SAMS course, which we initially developed, to do this.
In a room of 500 patrons for example there’d be 1 or 2 hosts, better if it was 2, and they’d be interacting with the patrons, assisting them to make the right choices so as not to reach intoxication or to cause general problems for the venue or the other patrons. The way in which they were trained through SAMS to do this had patrons appreciate them as they’d do it in a hospitable way so that customer satisfaction was raised. In this way challenges which are faced by all licensed venues are turned around 180 degrees to not only disappear but to bring forth new positives.
The hosts would engage the patrons, finding the sweet spot between too much engagement and not enough. They’d hand out a lot of water due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol i.e. increased irritability, decreased cognitive ability, development of a negative outlook and hangovers. On average on a really busy night a host would hand out up to 130+ bottles of water each (500+ pax crowd), on a not so busy night around 60 or 70, sometimes around 30 if things were slow or it was a Sunday afternoon when most patrons drink in a relaxed manner.
I’ve spoken to venues in the past who say they hand out waters too, when I ask how much I’ve often had them say, about 3 or 4 a night. So that’s one massive difference of SAMS.
These actions not only signify a massive difference in hydration but a massive difference in interaction. If you interact with patrons in a way that makes them feel happy to be interacted with then you improve their experience in the venue, you’re also more likely to have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in a venue. If a patron trusts you because you’ve already interacted with them in a friendly, hospitable way then they’re more likely to come to you with a problem before it escalates into an incident.
Another thing SAMS does is that it standardises the way in which patrons are dealt with in certain circumstances so that best outcomes are consistently obtained. As hosts we were always first in on things that were happening, unless it was a full blown fight for example. Dealing with all these scenarios over time, over and over again had it become clear that there were approaches that consistently get best outcomes. The best outcome is the patron doing what you’d like them to do and doing it happily.
In approaches to patrons there are not plenty of ways to skin a cat, there are of course subtly but not substantially. Consider these 2 examples; 1) a patron leaves a venue happily as if it were their idea even though it was a staff member who put the idea in their head; and 2) a patron leaves a venue being carried out by security in a manner that has the patrons’ friends concerned for their safety so they jump in to intervene and a big fight takes place between security and the patron’s colleagues. These are 2 scenarios where the same objective is reached i.e. the patron leaves the venue however in the first one the patron is in a good mood, is on the street in a good mood, and will happily come back to the venue in the future. In the 2nd the patron is furious, embarrassed, possibly hurt, in a bad state on the street, will likely not come back to the venue, will likely cause his friends not to come back to the venue, cause bad word of mouth for the venue, other patrons who weren’t a part of the group who saw the incident will even say they weren’t impressed with the venue etc. etc..
These scenarios are obviously the 2 extremes but SAMS will have people leave venues far closer to the 1st patron’s state of mind than the second’s. Not only that but because of the increased patron management that’s a part of SAMS and the methods it uses you’ll find there’ll be less ATLs for intoxication, disorderly conduct etc. in the first place.
Parts of what is in the SAMS (Special Alcohol Management Service) course training is already what well run licensed venues do. Having said that though, there are significant portions of the training that further tune up these things to a better standard and also offers additional crucially important information on top of that.
To back this up, in the feedback that trainees are asked to fill in at the end of the SAMS course where they’re asked to mark whether they “Strongly Agree”, “Agree”, “Neither” (Agree nor Disagree), “Disagree”, or “Strongly Disagree” with the statement: “Having completed SAMS I will be looking to improve on how I conduct my role with regards to patron management”; to this consistently approximately 70% of trainees say they “Strongly Agree” with this statement. The rest, consistently around 30% say they “Agree”.
The people doing this course have ranged in experience which reflect their roles, some who have been in the industry for 20, 30+ years. We’ve had owners, licensees, management, bar staff, security, wait staff etc. go through the course in proportionally equal numbers to how they’re represented in the industry. The above feedback percentage is the same regardless of their role or experience.
Patron management done correctly will improve customer relations, customer satisfaction, staff satisfaction, protection of a venue from licence breaches, increase revenue, increase sustainability of drinking culture etc. etc.. What % improvement in overall patron management do you think you could achieve and given the aforementioned benefits of bettering patron management, what is enough for you to take on this exercise of improving it?
Having been around varying licensed venues my whole adult life I conservatively estimate that SAMS would improve any venue’s patron management by at least 20%, I really believe though that it would be even more than that.
A hypothetical question: If we had one patron sitting in a room and wanted to see how much money we could make out of him / her without them reaching intoxication or causing other problems for the venue how would we do it? And do it in a way that the patron has a great time with no regrets the next day?
It’s best for that patron to begin with a meal and then to pace themselves throughout the night. Drink some alcohol, drink some water, have another drink if they’d like it, have something else to eat and so on. To pace themselves. Assisting the patron will keep them onsite for the maximum amount of time and will maximise their revenue expenditure.
In this hypothetical question we have all our attention on one patron so it’s easy enough to manage them but in reality we may have 250, 500, 1000, 5000, 50000 patrons to look after, so how can we manage all those patrons as effectively as we managed the one?
SAMS RSA Hosts were able to effectively manage patrons in a licensed venue, by working with other staff, if they were distributed at a proportionate ratio to the number of patrons who were there. We recognised though that we could train venues to do it better themselves and to take away the expense of hiring our hosts externally thus achieving it internally at no additional expense. This is why we became a training company.
This is what the SAMS training will do, it will be better than you having additional staff on the floor specifically managing the RSA of the venue and it wont just be on the busy nights that you’d look to hire additional RSA hosts (marshals), instead it will be on all days and nights of the week that you’re in operation.
SAMS will help any venue to better manage their alcohol drinking patrons so as to maximise their business success. We only concentrate on patron management and come from a hospitality background so customer satisfaction and business success is our focus. Great hospitality takes care of compliance and is better for all involved from the patrons, to the staff, and to the community.
So to finish, the main differences between SAMS and what licensed venues do are; 1) levels of assisted patron hydration, 2) levels of interaction with patrons, 3) concentrating on psychological impacts of our actions, or lack of action, on patron behaviour, 4) standardising best approaches to common scenarios so that best outcomes are consistently reached, 5) concentrating on a hospitality focus rather than a compliance focus & 6) getting rid of an us / them mentality, instead focusing on patrons and staff all being in it together i.e. aligning their big picture goals.