Protect your patio from pests this season

By Alice Sinia

As temperatures continue to rise, outdoor spaces are ready to welcome guests seeking a patio dining experience. However, alongside the allure of outdoor dining comes the challenge of managing pests that can not only be a nuisance but lead to health concerns for your business — and ultimately affect your bottom line.

While patrons enjoy the fresh air and scenic views, pests view these areas as prime feeding grounds. From flies buzzing around food to ants scavenging for crumbs, the presence of pests can quickly diminish the dining experience and tarnish a restaurant’s reputation.

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Read on to learn strategies and insights that help keep unwanted pests off restaurant patios and away from your customers’ dining experience.

Common pests that infest restaurant patios

There are many potential invaders that can wreak havoc on restaurant patios. Their presence and nuisance factor can deter guests from choosing your establishment as a dining option and make their experience one they do not want to repeat. Some of the most common offenders include:

  • Flies are attracted to food odours and can quickly become an annoyance on restaurant patios where food and drinks are served. They are a threat because they can spread pathogens in many ways, primarily through their feeding and breeding habits. These pests are attracted to decaying food and garbage, and when they land on these substances, they can pick up pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that may be present. As they move about to other surfaces, they can transfer the pathogens onto food, utensils and patio furniture.
  • Mosquitoes pose a nuisance on restaurant patios as they disrupt the dining experience with their incessant buzzing and irritating bites. Their presence not only drives away customers but also creates health concerns due to the potential transmission of diseases like malaria and West Nile virus.
  • Cockroaches thrive in warm and humid environments, making restaurant patios the perfect habitat. These resilient pests can enter buildings through small cracks and gaps. Be sure to keep a watchful eye around food prep areas and garbage bins, as these are pests likely to accumulate in those environments.
  • Rodents are drawn to outdoor dining areas due to the availability of food scraps and great hiding spots. One rodent sighting can send customers running, and for good reason. Rodents can cause significant damage to your property. Known to carry diseases and trigger allergic reactions, rodents also pose a health threat by contaminating food and surfaces with their droppings and urine.
  • Ants are attracted to sugary and greasy food residues commonly found in outdoor dining areas. They can quickly establish colonies in cracks and crevices, making them difficult to dispose of once they infest the area.
  • Stinging pests such as bees, wasps, yellow jackets and hornets can not only cause an annoyance, but also be a danger to your employees and customers with their painful stings and sometimes life-threatening allergic reactions. Some can also cause structural damage to your business if they nest within walls or roofs, resulting in costly repairs.
  • Birds like pigeons and sparrows are food scavengers that can keep patrons away. Birds are known to spread more than 60 transmittable diseases, including salmonella, meningitis and encephalitis and can also carry fleas, ticks, lice and mites. Their highly corrosive droppings can not only cause property damage but also create unsanitary conditions for both customers and staff.

Preventive pest control measures for your restaurant

Implementing preventive measures is crucial for helping keep pests away from restaurant patios and keep your guests coming back:

  1. Routine cleaning and maintenance: Implement a strict cleaning schedule for the patio area. This should include sweeping, mopping, and wiping down surfaces to remove food debris and spills. Regularly inspect for any signs of pest activity and address them promptly.
  2. Proper waste management: Ensure trash bins are sealed with tight-fitting lids. Implement recycling and composting programs to reduce the amount of waste that could attract pests. Regularly clean and sanitize trash bins to eliminate odors that may attract pests.
  3. Seal entry points: Conduct a thorough inspection of the patio area to identify and seal any gaps or cracks in the walls, doors, windows, and floors that could serve as entry points into your restaurant for pests such as rodents, insects, and birds. Install door sweeps and screens to prevent pests from entering the restaurant through doors and windows.
  4. Landscaping management: Keep greenery around the patio area well-maintained and trimmed to prevent it from providing hiding spots and nesting areas for pests. Remove any standing water or sources of moisture, such as leaky faucets or drainage problems.

Integrated Pest Management for restaurants

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs are a holistic approach to pest control that focus on prevention, monitoring, and control to help stop pest issues before they begin. IPM programs implement proactive measures such as sanitation and exclusion tactics to help prevent pest entry and focus on regular monitoring and documentation to help ensure ongoing effectiveness.

A quality IPM program allows restaurants to address pest problems while minimizing environmental impact and ensuring the safety of their customers through:

  • Ongoing inspections and monitoring: Your provider will regularly inspect the restaurant and patio for signs of pest activity to monitor the effectiveness of your IPM program and adjust treatment as needed.
  • Documentation: Be sure to document any pest sightings and activity trends around your business for your pest control provider to reference. Ongoing documentation can help you keep an eye out for any hot spots that may be creating a pest problem for your restaurant and help your pest control provider recommend specific treatment options. Treatment documentation is also necessary for any third-party audits around pest control or sanitation.
  • Staff Training: Empowering restaurant staff with proper training and education regarding pest management is crucial for helping prevent pests around your business. Your pest control provider may offer staff training programs to help get your whole team up to speed on monitoring for pest activity around your business as well as keeping detailed documentation for your records. By instilling best practices and protocols, employees can actively contribute to your pest control efforts and uphold high standards of cleanliness and sanitation.

In the dynamic world of restaurant management, helping to keep outdoor dining spaces free from pests presents a unique set of challenges. However, by knowing what common pests to watch out for and adopting a proactive approach grounded in IPM principles, restaurant owners can help safeguard their patios against these unwanted pests, protect their customers and their dining experiences, and keep getting those five-star reviews.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is Quality Assurance Manager of Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada, focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. For more information, email Alice Sinia at [email protected] or visit