The research by Serve Legal showed ID was requested during 72% of on-trade visits before alcohol was served, and managed establishments performed better than tenanted premises, achieving a rate of 73% compared with 67%.
The company’s retail testers, all of whom are 'young-looking' 18 and 19-year-olds, undertook more than 6,800 alcohol sales tests in pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels across the UK last year.
On-trade operators in south/central England achieved the UK’s highest alcohol sale test pass rate in 2016, passing 76% of age check tests. The poorest performer was Northern Ireland where operators passed just 50% of tests.
Door staff makes the difference
However, the presence of door staff makes a “significant difference” to test results, said Serve Legal.
Bar staff passed 90% of age check tests in 2016 when there were door personnel in operation, compared to 74% when there were not.
In comparison, off-trade retailers achieved a pass rate of 83% in 2016.
On-trade testing number drops
Pass rates in 2016 remained the same as 2015 following two years of growth, but test numbers from Serve Legal’s clients fell by 28% – their lowest levels since 2012.
Ed Heaver, director of Serve Legal, said although there were “undoubtedly tough times” for the hospitality sector, responsible retailing “must remain a priority”.
“The police and local authorities come down hard on those on the wrong side of the law with regards to underage alcohol sales, and yet the decline in on-trade testing in 2016 suggests that operators may not be taking the threat of fines, prosecution and business closure as seriously as they should,” he said.
“We have been working with the on-trade sector for 10 years and in that time, have seen that implementing rigorous and regular age-check testing improves their compliance dramatically.”
Serve Legal provides an independent test purchase service for retailers of age restricted products across the UK to check staff are checking young people for ID. Using a database of mystery shoppers, the company conducts around 100,000 tests a year across the UK for both major blue-chip multiples and single site independents.