There’s a moment in the classic TV show Seinfeld where George believes he swallowed a fly while sitting in Monk’s, the restaurant setting for most episodes. As a neurotic fellow, he leaps up from the table in shock and frantically asks other patrons what to do. The studio audience laughs along, because it’s such a George thing to do. Most people are hardly alarmed at the sight of a fly, even in a local diner. But should we be?
The University of Georgia examined perceptions of the house fly in restaurant settings, and the results weren’t encouraging. Indeed, many restaurant owners surveyed believed flies to be the least severe pest, but pest control experts asked the same question determined flies to be the second most harmful next to cockroaches and rodents. Clearly, an alarming disconnect exists between these two groups, so we discuss why flies should be treated as any normal pest infestation when managing a restaurant.
Why Flies Are Dangerous
Flies use decaying matter in virtually every aspect of their life cycle. They breed in and around manure, garbage containers, and decaying vegetables, while feasting on animal feces and kitchen waste as their food source. Their mouths have the ability to pick up a number of harmful bacteria due to its spongy nature, making them perfect disease-bearing agents. Flies can carry a number of bacteria and viruses that can have dangerous implications for humans, ranging from diarrhea to tuberculosis.
A fly digests its food by first liquefying the matter with its spittle, moistening the food source to make it easily digestible. This is how they’re able to transfer the harmful bacteria and why having an infestation is particularly troubling in a restaurant setting. A couple of flies could enter your kitchen, spread their germs around the prepared food, and plant their bacteria without leaving a noticeable sign of their presence. Flies inhabiting your kitchen have the potential for a disastrous health outcome for your patrons.
Defending Your Kitchen
In almost all instances when an infestation takes hold, flies entered a building through a structural fault. The first line of defense against flies is thorough sealing wherever applicable: doors, windows, vents, etc. Have a pest professional examine your building and note instances where you can begin improving the structural integrity as a primary defense.
Indoors, your main focus should be on garbage and rotting food. Both of these items are major fly attractants and can be easily managed with some preemptive work from your staff. Under no circumstances should any food waste remain in the kitchen area. Remove them immediately and place them in a receptacle away from your building. Additionally, don’t allow garbage to accumulate inside or outside. Instruct all staff to place trash in a sealable container if possible, always remembering to use a plastic bag.
Treating flies indoors on your own usually involves many short-term solutions that address the symptoms of a pest issue and not the cause, so please consult a pest professional for long-term strategies. Using the trusted fly-swatter will take care of the handful of flies circling about the room. Sticky traps or fly paper will also help in catching a few flies but won’t hold up over time or address any outdoor issues.
Pesticide application should only be used in severe circumstances and under the direction of a professional. Do not spray any aerosols or similar products around food preparation without first consulting a pest management company.
Instructing Your Staff
In the same study above, chefs commenting on complaints related to flies in the restaurant all reported low figures, saying that frequency hardly differed from kitchen staff to the customer. In general, the attitude among those surveyed tended to be apathetic in regards to recording and managing flies within the actual restaurant. Despite this, many considered their existing fly treatment strategy to be satisfactory.
This shows that just because you don’t receive complaints doesn’t mean your restaurant is pest free. Rather, you should be performing due diligence to address flies without needing customer input. Should a guest notice a fly, your team should compensate accordingly by exchanging the meal with a new one. The time spent on recreating the dish versus a potential lawsuit should be a no-brainer.