Sponsored by Western Pest Services
Restaurant traffic and sales can increase during the summer as tourists, vacationers and other customers seek to make the most of the warm, mild weather.
Unfortunately, summer can be a busy time for pests as well.
The best of times can also be the worst of times if operators are unprepared, says Hope Bowman, an entomologist for Western Pest Services in Parsippany, New Jersey.
“Summer is the best and the worst,” Bowman says. “It takes a shorter period of time for insects to go from egg to adult in the summer. The temperature is ideal for their behavior.”
Some of the pests most likely to cause problems in the summer are ants, mosquitoes and flies.
Carpenter and odorous house ants are attracted to breadcrumbs, meat and fruit, plant saps, sugar and sugary foods. Carpenter ants can cause serious property damage to wood structures by tunneling through a building's framework and timbers. Odorous house ants will invade buildings in large numbers searching for food and, when crushed, release an aroma similar to the smell of rotten coconuts.
The female needs only about an inch of water to breed. Mosquitoes are attracted to standing water or perspiration, body heat and exhaled gases, smells such as perfume or scented lotions, dark-colored clothing and thick plant vegetation. Besides biting humans and leaving itchy, irritating bumps, mosquitoes can spread dangerous diseases like the Zika virus, West Nile virus, malaria and yellow fever.
House flies and fruit flies are attracted by garbage, rotten produce and sewage, decaying, fermenting liquids and sweet juices. Known carriers of about six million different bacteria, they also spread disease by landing on surfaces. Unchecked, they can multiply rapidly.
These small pests can quickly ruin a customer’s restaurant experience, so operators must be conscious of their operation's environs and eliminate pest attractions as much as possible, Bowman says.
“Summer creates more pest pressure than any other time of the year,” she says. “We get more calls in the summertime as there are a lot more risks going on.”
Patios and sidewalk tables are set up to accommodate guests during the summer. Windows are opened wide. Servers are constantly going in and out of doors to patios. Some restaurants have large garage-door-type windows that can be rolled up on pleasant days so the entire restaurant can feel like it’s dining al fresco. However, open windows and doors not only invite in the sunshine and warm weather, but they also can invite pests.
So what are operators to do? Bowman offers the following suggestions for keeping a restaurant as pest-free as possible.
“Now is the time to up your sanitation,” she says.
When it comes to patios, don’t wait for a summer rain to wash away spills or odors, Bowman says. Bus tables immediately. Do not leave glasses and plates with syrupy residue sitting out. Clean up spills and crumbs immediately. Spray down the patio floor. Make sure trash cans are covered and positioned as far from seating areas as possible.
Summer is also the time to be vigilant in the kitchen. Clean up spills and remove rotting fruits and vegetables as quickly as possible. Don’t wait for the night or early morning cleaning crew.
“Get the trash out and make sure obvious spills are cleaned up at closing,” Bowman says. “Otherwise, you have several hours of attraction for pests.”
Also make certain all doors and windows close tightly. Mice are more likely to move about in the quiet of the night.
More fresh fruit and fresh vegetables are used in the summer, so remove peelings, trimmings and unused produce quickly. When fresh supplies of potatoes, onions or other produce are delivered, place the older produce on top of the new so unseen rotting vegetables do not attract flies.
Bar areas can become particular attractions for pests with all of the syrups and fruit juices stored there. Spills should be cleaned up immediately.
One of the worst infractions Bowman witnessed was a rooftop bar. Because it was inaccessible at night, the area often was not cleaned until the morning. The restaurant called in for pest control help after a fruit fly and house fly infestation was identified.
Operators can have a pest control company come in and give an assessment of potential problem areas so they can develop a plan or strategy to avoid attracting pests. Fly traps, air current devices for hallways and spraying may be options.
“You want to have someone assess the area and determine what the plan should be for the season,” Bowman says.