Charlottesville Restaurants Team Up With SARA to Protect Staff (Part One)


Members of a local restaurant coalition located in Charlottesville have worked with a local agency to develop a program designed to make workers feel safer on the job.

On the Fly was developed by the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, or SARA, a nonprofit with a mission to eliminate sexual violence and its impacts in communities through advocacy, prevention education, and outreach.  SARA serves the city of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Louisa, Nelson, Fluvanna and Greene Counties. 

It was a collaborative process with local restaurants that came together to seek solutions for creating safer workplace environments, explains Laurie Jean Talun, Director of Prevention, Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA). 

Says Richard Ridge, Owner and Manager, The Fitzroy Restaurant, “We care about our people. And in an environment like a restaurant where it’s fast paced, I want people to know that we have their back.  I was approached by the SARA folks who wanted to know how they could better serve us as a business in the community. 

“And one thing that we started to talk about was the health and safety of our employees. And that’s something that’s always been really important to me and the more I learned about their organization, I thought we could really have a chance to work together on a project that could help our employees and our managers. “

Like many small cities, Charlottesville has an active grapevine and it was the first place where SARA staff heard there was interest among some restaurant staffs, particularly bartenders, in finding a way to discourage unpleasant or downright sexually inappropriate behavior among patrons toward staff. 

The Prevention staff at SARA started visiting restaurants, including the Fitzroy, during off peak hours, introducing themselves and having casual conversations about what might work to shift the restaurant culture.

“When we introduced ourselves as being from the local Sexual Assault Resource Agency, it sparked interest. For a lot of the people we spoke with, we were able to kind of shape the conversation to explain the kinds of things we have been able to do in other types of institutions. We just want to support people. We wanted to know what some ways were we could that, so that they would feel safe coming to work,” explains Talun. 

What rose to the surface during these informal conversations was that there were a number of managers of local restaurants who really care about the safety and wellbeing of their staff. And they would find out the next day that one of their staff members had experienced some sort of really problematic harassment from a customer. They wanted to find a way to prevent this from happening,” says Talun. 

The result was the formation of a small coalition of restaurant owners and managers who started meeting with SARA staff to discuss options and develop solutions.  From there, the On the Fly program was developed.

The program is a system of color coding, in which a server can let their manager know, on the fly, that there is a potential or current problem with a customer. The restaurant managers determined what would be a yellow, an orange, or a red incident, and what would be the appropriate action that management would take to address the situation. 

Part Two discusses the On the Fly program in more detail.

For more information about SARA and the On the Fly program for restaurants, you can also visit