Conflict Resolution Techniques for Security Personnel & Bar Employees

When you own or manage a bar, you work every day to make sure every service goes smoothly and without issue. However, each patron who enters your establishment brings different ideas, interpersonal skill sets, prejudices, and emotions with them—add alcohol to the situation and your business is at an increased risk of an incident. Eventually conflict can happen.

It is up to the bar staff and management to use different skill sets to prevent, minimize or mitigate any conflict that might arise. Strong conflict resolution skills make all the difference and can help guide service back on track – and successfully defusing a situation is more mental skill than muscle.

What is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict resolution is conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of conflict and retribution. Team members attempt to resolve group conflicts by actively communicating information about the conflicting sides – their motives, ideologies, intentions, beliefs – and engaging in collective negotiation.

Conflicts, misunderstandings, and disorderly behavior can sometimes happen in places where people gather to socialize. How your staff prevents and manages those situations is the primary determinate of the outcome. Conflict resolution includes many aspects of service.

Is Your Staff Prepared for Conflict?

  • Making sure patrons are of the proper age for alcohol service
  • Making sure patrons are not intoxicated upon entry
  • Cut-off/service-refusal policies
  • Handling active altercations effectively
  • De-escalation of incidents
  • Follow-up to make sure a conflict event doesn’t continue outside of your business
  • Hiring good security personnel
  • Company policies and enforcements

Everyone involved in the hospitality industry operation has a role to play. 

Costs Associated with Bar Fights

The average cost of a bar fight claim is $109,678.25 (based on Society Insurance information). This ranges from a few hundred dollars for some altercations to up to several million dollars for a single altercation. This can dramatically impact the bottom line for bar owners, which is why conflict resolution training is critical for bar owners and staff.

 4 Conflict Resolution Techniques to Follow

  1. Strong door staff in place. The door staff is the first point of contact for patrons. They are among the first that have the task of determining if guests are of a proper age to enter and do not show signs of intoxication. They can also monitor for conflicts that may already be developing between customers before they enter. The actions you take at this point can resolve a potential conflict before it ever arrives. 
  2. Closely monitor alcohol service. Bartenders can help minimize the risk of a conflict developing by monitoring alcohol service using drink counting methods, observing patron physical and cognitive behaviors, pouring accurately measured drinks to avoid over-service, and employing a good cut-off policy.

    Read “When to Stop Serving Alcohol & Refuse Service.”
  3. Remain vigilant, especially during peak hours. Security and floor staff see what is happening throughout the operation. They are the eyes and ears of the operation and get the best view of what might be bubbling up near the dance floor. This is when good conflict resolution skills can help to step in, de-escalate and manage the situation.
  4. Implement comprehensive standard operating procedures and policies. The owner and management team can provide proper training to all staff including conflict resolution skill development training. Don’t overlook implementing good policies and procedures for the staff to act on, such as a strong cut-off policy, effective ID and non-entry policy, patron ejection policy, training and exercise for emergency situations, use of force policies, and more. Provide regular training to ensure the staff possesses a clear understanding. Having the proper policies and training in place will help to minimize the impact of a conflict and maximize the effectiveness of everyone’s response when an issue arises.

Watch our webinar below for additional best practices and how to handle high-stress conflict situations.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Criminal Background Check

Conflict resolution starts well before any on-site conflict ever occurs. Set your staff and operation up for success with strong hiring policies and practices which includes hiring security staff with good interpersonal skills.

We always recommend doing a criminal background check on any staff with real or even perceived security duties. Society Insurance has a partnership with IntelliCorp which provides this service at a discounted rate for policyholders.

Avoid Use of Force Unless Absolutely Necessary

Avoid any use of force unless it is necessary to protect staff or other patrons. When staff and patrons are safe, wait for the arrival of local police who have the training and authority to better handle the situation.

Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training (BASSET)

BASSET training helps servers understand the importance of providing a properly measured drink, how they can identify the signs of intoxication to help them alongside their drink counting techniques, and other skills that can help reduce the risk of a patron displaying a lack of judgment that could lead to a disruption of service. BASSET is required for all servers in bars in Illinois and this or similar programs are used nationwide. Society Insurance policyholders receive a discount for the online BASSET course by ServSafe.

Employ Conflict Resolution Techniques and Take Preventive Measures

Preparation, good policies and good training lead to the prevention of incidents. But if an incident does occur, it will also improve the response and outcome. We understand that there may be bumps in the road during daily service, but we want to help you address any challenges as smoothly and safely as possible. Society Insurance specializes in your industry and our risk control team is experienced in bar risk management – we are always ready to help. Contact your local Society agent to learn more about the value-added resources and services that are available to help keep your business safe and profitable.


Shelby has a master's degree from St. Louis University's School of Public Health. He has worked as a Risk Improvement Representative for Society Insurance since 2010. Shelby has been a safety and risk management resource for contractors, supermarkets, convenience stores, the hospitality industry, health care and higher education. He is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and the Insurance Loss Control Association (ILCA).

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