The warning comes from insurance provider NFU Mutual, which claimed nearly half (48%) of consumers asked had seen staff in public-facing roles subjected to abuse.
A further 83% of those surveyed by the company said they expected hospitality staff to have necessary training to handle such incidents.
Pubs, bars and restaurant were the most common places for customers to witness incidents of violence (28%), followed by cafés (19%) and hotels (15%).
Some 74% of consumers claimed they would intervene if a member of staff was being attacked by another customer.
Abuse incidents in hospitality
A statement from the insurer claimed incidents of violence and abuse in the hospitality and retail sectors were on the rise, with 96% of hospitality workers having experienced some sort of workplace mistreatment. Nearly three-quarters (74%) said verbal abuse was the most common form of confrontation.
Nearly half of the more than 2,000 UK respondents to NFU’s survey said they had witnessed some sort of abuse to staff in the past three years, including belittling language, cursing, shouting and even physical attacks.
Young adults were the most likely to identify instances of abuse in pubs and bars, with 51% of respondents aged 18–24 noting problems.
Measures consumers would like to be in place to help prevent or limit such abuse include better training for hospitality staff to deal with it.
Despite concerns, almost a third of hospitality and retail businesses surveyed said they had not actively taken measures to protect their staff.
Doubling up on staff
However, where measures had been taken, they included having a policy statement, installing CCTV or doubling up on staff.
There is also a consultation being undertaken in England and Wales proposing new laws offering better protection for workers who are involved in the sale or supply of age-restricted goods or services, with 74% of such businesses surveyed by NFU Mutual agreeing with proposed changes.
Hospitality sector specialist at NFU Mutual Darren Seward said: “With Christmas fast approaching, it’s vital for employers to ensure their staff are prepared for potential incidents.
“The sale of age-restricted goods and services have proven to be a major trigger point for incidents of violence or verbal abuse against hospitality workers.
“The festive period sees more social events hosted across the sector, increasing footfall and providing more opportunity for this kind of conflict.”