SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's liquor control authority has launched a strategic plan designed to implement changes focused on customer service, employee recruitment and retention, transparency and alcohol abuse prevention.
"As a half-billion dollar public enterprise, we need to make sure that we are holding ourselves accountable, that we have a good road map that guides our decision making," Tiffany Clason, the executive director of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, told FOX 13 News. "But even more important to be intentionally collaborative so we’re not in a silo making decisions for our customers without our customers."
For the strategic plan, unveiled this week, the agency consulted with many liquor license holders and hospitality industry groups. Michele Corigliano, the executive director of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association, was pleasantly surprised.
"This is the first time in history that the DABC has cared enough to put it together," she told FOX 13 News. "We’ve seen such a huge change in the culture at the DABC, where they are actually looking for the industry’s opinion and looking to increase customer service, something we have never seen before and we’re so delighted by it."
The DABC — which will soon be renamed to drop "Control" and become the "Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services" — put technological and infrastructure improvements as its top priority. The legislature funded some IT upgrades. Some of that includes modern payment methods, Clason said.
"You’ll see smart pay options like Apple Pay and other things," she said. "You’ll see our stores be truly wireless."
Applications for liquor licenses and event permits will also move online, eliminating the agency's longstanding reliance on paper forms. The DABS in 2023 will also pilot "click and collect," allowing customers to order online, go to a nearby store and show ID and pay and take it home.
"The two stores we’ve identified are the West Valley City store and the Taylorsville store," Clason said. "The idea being we want to be an environment where we can test things, we have little hiccups we can improve them, iron them out and the goal will be to launch that in a broader footprint as we’re funded additionally and able to do."
Another priority in the DABS' plan is wage hikes for employees, with funding already secured.
"We’ll see compensation in those environments, retail and warehouse, finally and truly competitive," Clason said.
The DABS said it will prioritize customer service, something that Corigliano said her group (which has been critical of the agency in the past) has already noticed.
"Customer service has increased immensely. Not only for restaurant people and bar people, but the consumer," she said.
Many of the changes, including the agency's name, will start in June and roll out throughout the next year. Another big change is being considered by the DABS commission — allowing the sale of mini-bottles. The Utah State Legislature is leaving it up to the commission to decide whether to bring them back.
"I know the commission is reviewing that now, and they’re looking to see what the next steps need to be, depending on what direction they need to take," Clason said.