Shift Drink: Right or Reward?

Eight of the South’s best chefs weigh in on the restaurant tradition of the shift drink

Snap! Crack! Pop!

No, not cereal, it’s ye olde shift drink: the crack of a Pabst, of a beer bottle cap opening, of a cork being freed as cooks, waiters, and dishwashers sidle up to the bar at the end of the night looking for booze. It’s a familiar scene, one frequently found in the front window of bars at many restaurants across the country. There’s some laughter, back-slapping, and ribbing as hats are turned back around, brows are wiped, and a group of folks wearing whites look hopefully at the bartender as they settle up their tabs and square things away.

Southern Chefs Weigh In On the Shift Drink

Right? Reward? Delinquency? Distraction? It all depends on the restaurant, its chef, owner, and even to some degree, the staff. Sure, it can be a bonding experience for staff to bend elbows. But some might argue it’s a sign of restaurant that’s not really serious. And when do the shift drinks get poured? When cooks are still on the line? Only when they’re out of the kitchen?

Should the shift drink be a god-given right? Why? Just because it’s the hospitality business? You wouldn’t want your local cop drinking on the job. A schoolteacher? You don’t see doctors, lawyers, or writers drinking on the job do you [er, cough, cough, ahem]? So why should the shift drink be okay for cooks and wait staff?

At least, that’s the argument that some might make. So what’s the best practice? In this brief interview recently with eight Southern chefs participating in the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, answered the question: What’s your take on staff drinks? Are you for or against them? From Norman Van Aken and Shaun Doty, to Ford Fry and Linton Hopkins, find out what some of the South’s best chefs think about whether or not the shift drink is a good idea.

To shift drink or not to shift drink? Comment below!

Norman Van Aken: “Off property... with me.”

Kelly English: “We have a beer together every Saturday night. I love that time of the week.”

Ford Fry: “OOOOOOH BABY – a recipe for disaster! I think they should be limited to recognition for great work or an accomplishment. Or experiencing a great craft beer or spirit. Staff drinks tend to become all-nighters!"

David Guas: In my restaurant, my staff is not allowed alcohol on duty, but can stop in on their day off if they like to buy an Abita beer. And usually with as hard as we’re working, lattes and cappuccinos are our drink of choice anyways. “

Shaun Doty: “Not for.”

Linton Hopkins: “Against. This is a professional guild, not a party club.”

Anthony Lamas: “I'm okay with staff drinks after they clock out and change clothes.”


Kristen Hard: “I am all for an evening cocktail with our staff in the end of the day. We like to celebrate how hard we work with bourbon.”