On the Fly Program Diffuses Situations Easily, Safely

The new On the Fly program developed for Charlottesville area restaurants is already proving to be an effective means for protecting employees, says Richard Ridge, Owner and Manager, Fitzroy Restaurant. 

Participating restaurants worked with the prevention-focused team at the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, or SARA. For decades, SARA has been doing important work helping sexual assault survivors. In recent years, the agency has strengthened its focus on preventing sexual assault from happening in the first place.

On the Fly is a color-system that allows staff to report quickly to their management or leadership teams if something inappropriate occurred in order for those intervention strategies to be applied, explains Jada Cox, Bystander Empowerment Specialist, SARA. 

 “There’s a value to the immediate communication, at the time it’s happening. Managers are not finding out the next day, when it’s too late,” notes SARA Agency Director of Prevention Laurie Jean Talun.

A code yellow means the manager is alerted to monitor the situation. The action might be as simple as the manager approaching the table and greeting the patrons. This can send a subtle message that the manager is aware and is keeping an eye out and is often all that it takes for a situation to immediately diffuse. 

An orange might require a stronger intervention, such as switching servers for a particular table. And if the situation has escalated to Red, it’s usually time to remove the person from the restaurant. 

Says Ridge, “It gives staff an opportunity to speak with me. If they’re feeling unsafe and it, as a manager, it gives me the opportunity to quickly address the issue.” 

He adds, “We like having something in place like On the Fly to be able to work with incidences when they happen, and help our staff work through the situation and make sure that everybody’s feeling okay.”

The On the Fly program is a system that’s been built to respond to situations. It’s not primary prevention, and that’s where the SARA Prevention team really comes to the forefront: doing leadership training for restaurant management as well as training for the front of house and back of house. 

“We want things to feel normalized that it is not normal to be spoken to a certain way or harassed a certain type of way. It’s not normal to experience some type of sexual violence in your place of work, a place where you should feel protected that you go to earn a living, to provide for your family,” says Carley Wilson, Community Prevention Specialist, SARA. 

“It’s a critical process of setting new norms for working in restaurants. For some who’ve worked in them for years, being sexually harassed and putting up with it in the hopes of earning bigger tips has become expected, just part of the job. Setting new norms, where this kind of thing is not acceptable, is what we help to make happen,” says Talun.

As the On the Fly program gains traction in Charlottesville, SARA and the Restaurant Coalition are hoping to share this sexual assault prevention strategy with other restaurants statewide.

For more information about SARA and the On the Fly program for restaurants, you can also visit https://www.saracville.org/restaurants.