Handle Harassment with the Angel Shot

Great hospitality means keeping guests safe, and the Angel Shot initiative can help you do just that. Learn what it is and how to implement it in your restaurant today.

Content warning: This post contains discussions of sexual harassment.

Say you're on a bad first date, or at a bar talking up a stranger you've grown increasingly wary of. What's your exit strategy?

Whether it's an "accidental" wine spill, a sudden case of food poisoning, or a sick dog/kid at home, we've all got one, because we've all been there.

But sometimes, these excuses aren’t enough. Sometimes, you need a helping hand from bar/restaurant staff to get you out of an uncomfortable, unhealthy, or unsafe situation. And sometimes, guests at your establishment will need this, too.

To help your patrons feel more comfortable and safe, you can implement and train your team on a simple but effective method: the Angel Shot.

What is the Angel Shot? 

The Angel Shot isn’t actually a drink order, but a code for "I need help" or "I need to get out of this situation."It got its start as the viral "Ask for Angela" initiative in Lincolnshire, U.K  — a sexual assault prevention campaign urging bar patrons who feel unsafe on a date or uncomfortable around a fellow guest to "Ask for Angela" at the bar. Once asked, the bar staff know to call the guest a cab and help them exit the establishment discreetly and without fuss. And over the past few years, this initiative has found its way to the United States, going by the name "Angel Shot."

The same rules apply for the Angel Shot: When a patron orders an Angel Shot, they’re covertly letting their bartender or server know that they’re either on a date that’s not working out or they don’t feel safe because of another guest’s behavior, and they’re either in need of some help getting out of there, or would like staff to remove the offending guest from the establishment.

Based on the severity of the situation, the Angel Shot is ordered one of three ways:

  1. "Neat" or "Straight Up:" This indicates to the bartender or server that the guest needs an escort to their car.

  2. "On Ice" or "With Ice:" This indicates to the bartender or server that the guest needs them to call them a taxi or a Lyft/Uber.

  3. "With Lime" or "With a Twist:" This indicates to the bartender or server that the guest needs them to call the police.

Because the Angel Shot is still a pretty new concept, the ways in which guests will order one, and the expected outcome, will differ from restaurant to restaurant. For example, some restaurants and bars have additional ordering options under the Angel Shot umbrella that signal:

  1. The guest needs to speak to the restaurant or bar’s management.

  2. The guest would like the bartender or staff member to call a friend or family member on their behalf.

  3. The guest is ordering this drink for a friend or fellow patron who is unable.

  4. The guest thinks their previous drink was spiked by someone at the restaurant or bar.

The meanings may vary, but the Ask for Angela and Angel Shot initiatives both seek to provide a safe, subtle solution to an age-old problem that’s found new life in the age of online dating and dating apps. On apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble, people can’t always be sure that the person they’re meeting for dinner or a drink has been truthful during their digital conversations. If these guests arrive at your bar or restaurant to find their date isn’t who they said they were, or if things go south for them in any other way, the Angel Shot provides an easy way out that won’t make them feel uncomfortable.

"I heard about the Angel Shot from a girl who came in early for her first Tinder date," said Celine Chahine, a bartender at The Asgard Irish Pub & Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "She told me about it and said that if she asks for one it means she needs an escape route ASAP. I thought it was a bit funny but kept an eye on them all night; she never needed one. But, a couple weeks later, another girl on a date asked me if I knew what an Angel Shot was. I told her I did but that it may take a bit to make. I went in the back, grabbed a cigarette and rolled it in a napkin. I handed it to her with a note inside that said 'There’s a cab outside. Pretend to go outside and smoke this.' She smiled, thanked me, and got out of there."

Erin Wade on Creating a Safe, Inclusive Work Environment

Homeroom is paving the way towards making restaurant work safe and enjoyable for all.

How Do We Let Guests Know We Offer the Angel Shot?

The Angel Shot is meant to fly under the radar. So how can you covertly let guests know that you offer it? With care, sensitivity, and discreet signage.

Back in 2017, Iberian Rooster (a restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida) made national headlines for its innovative signs posted in their women’s bathroom. The signs read: "Are you on a date that isn't going well? Is your Tinder or Plenty of Fish date not who they said they were on their profile? Do you feel unsafe, or even just a tad bit weird?" From here, they went on to outline exactly how to use the Iberian Rooster’s take on the Angel Shot.

Since then, many restaurants and bars have followed suit, finding success with this tactic of posting signs in restrooms to let patrons know they offer the Angel Shot — including ways they can order, and what each order entails.

Your signs don’t have to be fancy, as long as they clearly communicate info about the Angel Shot. Here are a few examples of real signage posted in bars and restaurants, as shared by their guests:

The mainstreaming of the Angel Shot has been met with overwhelming praise — and for good reason — but the initiative isn’t without its shortcomings.

Some have pointed out that, by limiting Angel Shot signage to women’s restrooms, men and non-binary or gender nonconforming guests are left vulnerable and out of the loop. Women who don’t need to use the restroom during their time at the bar are also kept in the dark. It’s also been pointed out that, while the publicity the Angel Shot has earned helps to spread awareness, it could also render it ineffective: If predators know about it, they’ll understand the chain of events that follow an Angel Shot being ordered, and could potentially work around it.

Regardless of these flaws, though, both the Ask for Angela and Angel Shot initiatives have thus far been successful in getting many guests out of uncomfortable and dangerous situations.

Guest Safety Is Key to Great Hospitality

When guests walk through your doors, you want them to feel safe. If you’re interested in adopting either the Angel Shot or Ask for Angela initiatives, click here to download the #NoMore campaign's Ask for Angela printout to hang in your restaurant or bar, or follow the restaurants and bars in the examples above and create your own. Then, inform your staff about the initiative and train them to effectively respond to keep guests safe.

Above all: If a guest at your bar or restaurant fears for their safety and reaches out to management or a staff member for help, or if you or an employee witness a guest being harassed or assaulted, call 911 immediately.

Subscribe to On the Line

On the Line is a place for restaurant professionals to tell their stories, learn, and get psyched about going to work every day. Subscribe to get restaurant industry news, advice, stories, and guides — right in your inbox. Join the fun. We won’t spam you, swear.