Test purchasing company Serve Legal carried out 33,400 off-trade and 6,000 on-trade site visits in 2011. The off-trade pass rate was 79% compared to 69% for pubs. That 10% gap has been maintained during the first five months of 2012, with pass rates of 81% for the off-trade, and 71% for the on-trade.
A Serve Legal test purchase is a ‘pass’ if the mystery visitor is required to provide official ID to complete the purchase. Outlets ‘fail’ if the visitor is able to purchase alcohol without showing ID.
Serve Legal managing director Charlie Mowat issued a note of caution to licensees as trading standards officers continue to keep up the pressure through sting operations. “Trading standards are as active as ever, and we’ve had calls from leading pubcos asking if we can help them make improvements after being caught out,” he said.
“We also know that trading standards are visiting pubs with false IDs to see if bar staff are asking for correct, acceptable ID. Pub operators need to be clear to their staff about what ID to accept.”
Mowat said that bar staff must always be ‘on their toes’. “The only forms of bona fide ID that we strongly recommend are a current driving licence, a passport, or cards with the Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) logo on it,” he advised.
He said that more pubcos are starting their own test purchasing to improve staff performance. “Testing should not be seen as an emergency measure, but a proven, proactive way to improve staff performance, demonstrate due diligence, and help remove the risk of underage sales,” he added.