Customer Experience

What is an Angel Shot and How Can It Keep Guests Safe?

By Katherine Pendrill

What is an Angel Shot and How Can It Keep Guests Safe?

As a restaurateur, it’s your job to create an enjoyable and safe environment for all of your guests. One way you can do this is by making it known that you offer the angel shot, which can help to protect your customers from unacceptable behavior like sexual harassment.

Remember, potential danger isn’t always obvious, so it’s important to provide your guests with a way to raise the alarm if they feel threatened – and to do so discreetly depending on the situation.

In this guide to the angel shot, we’ll cover:

  • The angel shot meaning
  • How the angel shot started
  • 3 ways to order an angel drink
  • Benefits to offering the angel shot
  • Drawbacks to the angel shot drink

What is an Angel Shot?

The angel shot is not actually a shot or a well drink, but rather a code that signals to bar or restaurant staff that a guest is feeling unsafe.

This safety initiative originally started in London, England in 2016 as the “Ask for Angela” campaign. Launched as a partnership between the Metropolitan Police, the Mayor of London, and bars and clubs across the city, the initiative gives guests a discreet way to let staff know they feel unsafe by “asking for Angela” at the bar. An employee with Welfare and Vulnerability Engagement training will respond to this code by calling the customer a cab, notifying security, or contacting police depending on the circumstances.

In the U.S., this initiative is known as ordering an angel shot, and it works similarly to the U.K.’s Ask for Angela campaign. Many venues advertise that they offer angel shot drinks by putting signs up in women’s restrooms. The signage encourages guests to ask for an angel shot if they feel unsafe. Depending on what the customer would like staff to do in the situation, there are several variations of the angel shot they can “order.”

Angel Shot Recipe Code

You now have an answer to the question, “What is an angel shot?” Let’s explore 3 variations of the angel shot meaning, and what each “recipe” entails. As a bartender, this shot is one of the most important mixes you can master.

  1. Neat or Straight Up: If a guest orders this kind of angel shot drink, they want an employee to walk them to their car.
  2. On Ice or On the Rocks: When a customer asks for this kind of angel drink, they want a staff member to call a rideshare or taxi.
  3. With Lemon/Lime or With a Twist: In this case, the guest feels like they’re in imminent danger and they want an employee to call the police.
Busy bartender working behind the bar.

Benefits of Offering the Angel Shot

In the U.S., someone is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. More than 80% of women have experienced some type of sexual harassment, along with nearly 45% of men. It’s crucial to do what we can to look out for one another in the face of these grim statistics. For business owners like restaurateurs, this means letting customers know that your bar or restaurant is a safe place where you and your staff are looking out for your guests’ wellbeing.

The angel shot has gained worldwide popularity in recent years, and signing on to this initiative is a good way to show your customers that you’re committed to keeping them safe. Let’s walk through 3 of the main advantages to serving up this shot.

1. It’s Discreet

While some bar-goers may have no problem with loudly rejecting unwanted advances from another guest who’s had one too many Jack & Cokes, every situation and customer is different. These kinds of uncomfortable and potentially dangerous circumstances often require discreet bartender conversations.

By enabling your guests to order an angel shot if they’re feeling unsafe, you can make a negative situation a little less awful. Your customer likely already feels awkward or even scared, so it’s important to make it as easy as possible for them to get your attention and assistance, and quickly get them out of harm’s way. Especially in cases where your guest is unable to put space between themselves and the person they’re worried about, using a code phrase like the angel shot allows them to get the help they need.

2. It’s Easy to Implement

Getting an angel shot program up and running at your bar or restaurant doesn’t require a heavy lift from you. All you need to do is train your employees on how to respond to guests when they order an angel drink, then let your customers know this option is available to them.

While your staff may not always be able to spot trouble outright, they should be able to respond when called upon. Start by educating front of house employees about the three most common angel shot meanings. Run a few practice drills so employees get the hang of how it works. Then decide if you want to offer any other variations on this code phrase, like giving customers the ability to ask for help on behalf of another guest who may not be able to do so themselves. Just remember to keep the system as clear and simple as possible.

When you’re ready to promote your angel shot program, create some signs and place them in high traffic areas of your restaurant like lobbies and bathrooms. Here’s an example of one of the signs from the original Ask for Angela campaign in the U.K.:

Poster from the U.K. for the Ask for Angela campaign.

And here’s a poster created for Nashville bars by the Sexual Assault Center of Middle Tennessee:

Poster for the Angel Shot from a bar in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Being in the position I’m in (as a female bar owner), I was like, ‘I have a great opportunity here to be an ally for not just ladies, because some guys need help sometimes, too,’” SandBar Nashville owner Leah McCormick told the Tennessean newspaper. “But the majority is the females that, you know, we just wish we had that extra layer of protection or someone watching out for us because a lot of us move here alone.”

3. It Can Improve Customers’ Safety

Besides being discreet and easy to implement, the biggest benefit of offering your guests the angel shot is that it acts as a tool to help keep them safe. Solo diners, guests on dates, and even customers in groups can all be vulnerable to danger. In fact, 21% of American women report “always or often” feeling unsafe on a first date, and 46% of women report that they never go to bars alone due to safety concerns. Participating in the angel shot initiative is one way to support your guests with these well-founded concerns and protect them from harm.

Of course, for all the positive aspects of the angel shot, it does have limitations. Let’s discuss a few shortcomings of the angel drink initiative.

Drawbacks to Angel Shots

While well-intentioned, angel shot initiatives can have limited visibility if they’re often only promoted to women. For instance, if your restaurant only places signs in the women’s washroom, this excludes non-binary people who may not use the women’s room. It also doesn’t help to protect men from harassment.

You can mitigate this problem of visibility by putting angel shot posters in all washrooms in your restaurant, as well as sharing the campaign in more public ways, like posting about it on your social media channels.

There is a downside to publicizing the angel shot, however. The popularity of the angel shot may mean more harassers know what the code is, ultimately making the discretion aspect less effective. Despite this concern, as long as the end result of ordering an angel shot means your guest is safe from a potential threat, it’s still worthwhile.

Guest safety should be a top priority at every bar and restaurant. And while the angel shot is a useful program that has already done a lot of good around the world, calling 911 should still be your staff’s go-to move if a guest is afraid for their safety and asks for help, or if your employees see someone being harassed.

Photo of Katherine Pendrill
by Katherine Pendrill

Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.

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