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If you’ve been in the restaurant industry for very long, you know alcohol is one of the most lucrative aspects of any food service business. Wine, liquor, and beer have a high markup, low labor cost, and long shelf life, which boosts profitability across the board. Given the slim margins for most other menu items, it’s no surprise restaurant owners are always looking for ways to maximize alcohol sales.

Post-pandemic, there’s a new way to increase revenue: alcohol delivery. Thanks to evolving laws, it’s easier than ever to offer cocktails for customers to enjoy at home with their food. To capitalize on this new income stream, you’ll need to follow local and state regulations — and in many places, that involves applying for an alcohol delivery certificate.

What is an alcohol delivery certificate?

An alcohol delivery certificate is a special type of permit or license that allows restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages for home delivery. In some areas, it’s an add-on or endorsement to your existing liquor license. In others, it’s a separate license entirely. Typically, this type of certificate is designed specifically for restaurants and retail licensees that make most of their revenue from food sales; it may be different from the delivery licenses required for bars, liquor stores, and other alcohol sellers.

Every state sets its own rules for alcohol delivery. In Oklahoma, for example, a qualified restaurant employee must perform the delivery. States including Michigan allow restaurants with an on-premises liquor license to use third-party delivery companies to transport alcoholic beverages to customers. In states such as North Carolina, alcohol laws are still in flux.

Before you put alcohol on your menu for delivery or takeout, make sure to read up on the applicable laws. Getting an alcohol delivery certificate can take time, so it’s a good idea to get started on the application process in advance.

Certificate requirements to consider

Although the rules for beverage delivery licenses vary, you can expect a few standard eligibility requirements. To start, you should be able to prove that half of your restaurant’s revenue comes from prepared food or food delivery. Planning to use a third-party delivery service? You must create a written contract with that service in accordance with state law.

If your state requires a separate alcohol delivery certificate, expect to provide a variety of documents for the application. These may include:

  • Current business license
  • Sales tax permit or certificate
  • Business liability insurance
  • Third-party delivery contracts
  • Driver’s licenses for in-house delivery drivers
  • Proof of insurance for in-house delivery drivers
  • Deed or lease for the restaurant
  • Restaurant owner ID
  • Retail agreements
  • Training course completion certificate

The delivery services you use must also follow a few key rules:

  • Conduct background checks for delivery drivers
  • Report driver information to the state alcoholic beverage control (ABC) commission or other regulatory body
  • Enforce state training course requirements for drivers
  • Ensure delivery drivers keep required permits in their vehicles

Whether you’re outsourcing alcohol delivery or handling it in-house, it’s important to stay up to date on the laws for drivers. For example, in Texas, anyone who’s delivering an alcoholic beverage directly to customers must take the Texas Responsible Alcohol Delivery Training (TRAD) course. If your state requires a training program, it will usually cover safety tips, regulations, and ID rules that help prevent illegal alcohol sales and underage drinking. Some states also require that drivers pass an exam after completing a training course.

Does an alcohol delivery certificate affect restaurant employees?

Once your restaurant is legally permitted to deliver alcohol, you’ll need to prepare your servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff. Most states require servers to practice responsible service and package alcohol according to strict rules. Usually, these drinks must be:

  • Served in original or qualified containers
  • Sealed
  • Packaged separately from food 
  • Labeled as alcohol

Some states have additional requirements. In Michigan, containers must have an exterior label that includes the text, “Contains Alcohol. Must be delivered to a person 21 years of age or older.” To make sure your restaurant is in compliance with all relevant laws, it’s a good idea to conduct a training course for servers and other employees.

Tap into this growing market with the help of Grubhub

Alcohol delivery is growing in popularity across the United States. Diners love the convenience of ordering drinks with their meals, and restaurants love the boost in revenue. With the right certifications, you can offer beer, wine, and cocktails for takeout and delivery. Grubhub for Restaurants can help streamline the process — our drivers follow strict rules to ensure alcoholic drinks reach your customers quickly, safely, and in compliance with local and state law.Want to try it out? Get started with Grubhub today.