‘Pest’ is a broad term for any type of organism that can be detrimental to human health or property, and generally includes insects such as ants, cockroaches, and flies, and rodents like mice and rats.
Especially for businesses that prepare or sell food and drink to the public, they are a problem that, if not managed competently, can lead to permanent closure.
When common pests enter and become established within a restaurant, they cause a range of potential risks that can quickly become serious. They can destroy hygiene standards, contaminate food, damage property, and often lead to a range of health and safety issues for customers and employees alike.
In this blog, we investigate the consequences of de-prioritising the threat of the common pest. But first, let’s look at some of the species that, if ignored, can become a major problem.
The likes of rats and mice are attracted to food retailers because of the abundance of food and shelter they provide.
Though a stray rat or mouse may only do minor damage to the premises, in large numbers, they can be devastating. Apart from the diseases they carry on their bodies, they defecate constantly. In a food preparation environment, it makes for a mix that poses a severe threat.
Rodents do more than biological harm too. As natural gnawers and burrowers, they inflict severe damage to appliances and furniture.
Rarely thought of as a ‘pest’, birds can prove to be a real nuisance for restaurants. Where the likes of pigeons congregate, they create a visual mess with their droppings and can carry parasites and other diseases.
Due to their innate tendency to peck and roost, birds can also cause structural damage, including to equipment, rooves, and electrical wiring. Damage is similarly caused by their acidic droppings, which corrode paintwork, roofing materials, signage, and outdoor furniture.
There are two categories of insects that are attracted to food preparation areas – flying and crawling insects – and both cause potential problems.
Flying insects range from fruit flies and moths to more dangerous species, such as mosquitoes.
Typically entering through doors, windows, air vents, and other open spaces, they damage premises in multiple ways, such as contaminating food and damaging furniture.
Restaurants failing to proactively deal with insects that can fly allow an environment to develop in which customers feel uncomfortable, and their discomfort is reflected in online reviews.
In restaurants, crawling insects mostly come in the form of ants, cockroaches, and beetles.
Entering through cracks and crevices in the walls or floor or through open doors and windows, once on the premises, they too can contaminate food, spread illnesses, damage walls and furniture, and upset customers just as deftly as their winged counterparts.
The Impact of Pests on Restaurants
If not kept under control, pests can impact restaurants and food retailers in all kinds of ways.
Damage to Human Health
From a human health perspective, the diseases pests carry can be deeply unpleasant. For example, Weil’s disease is a type of bacteria that can pass to humans via the urine of infected rats.
Mostly presenting as flu-like symptoms such as headaches and muscle soreness, more severe cases can result in the development of meningitis, kidney failure, and, in rare cases, death.
Such is the seriousness of the illnesses they can transmit; UK law takes an extremely dim view of food businesses that fail to control infestations. If a customer’s health is compromised due to the presence of pests, they have grounds to sue, and the financial impact on the business of such a lawsuit can be devastating.
Even if no one is harmed by a pest, their noted presence in a restaurant can lead to downgraded food hygiene scores, fines, penalties, and even mandatory closure.
A restaurant or food retailer that becomes known for having a pest problem – or even having had one in the past – suffers a degree of reputational damage from which it is hard to recover.
And it doesn’t take long for bad news to spread in a world obsessed by social media. When news of an infestation hits the social networks it can be very damaging to the short and long-term reputation of your establishment.
The loss in revenue from stay-away customers is compounded by the very real physical damage pests can inflict on a restaurant or food retailer. Furniture, décor, and wiring must be repaired or replaced, floors may need to be ripped up, and there may even be a need to invest in the services of a professional pest controller.
Pests are deemed to pose so great a threat to food safety standards that there are now no fewer than six pieces of legislation that confer legal requirements to restaurant owners and food retailers.
From The Prevention of Damage by Pest Act 1949 to The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995, UK authorities have the means to issue fines of up to £120,000 for small businesses and up to £3,000 for large ones for failing to act on a pest problem.
Should the pest problems have gotten so out of hand that a fine is inappropriate, the same authorities have the power to push for business closure and the imposition of prison sentences.
Prevention and Control
As illustrated, the consequences of ignoring pests can be severe and long-lasting.
Pest prevention is always better than pest control. Fortunately, there are cost effective steps a business can take to ensure a pest problem never occurs:
Sanitation is critical in pest prevention, and frequent cleaning and disinfection with approved chemicals and pesticides, as well as equipment and utensils, is essential. Likewise, proper disposal of rubbish and storage of consumables in sealed containers and zones should be basic practices within an integrated pest management plan.
Both tasks are aided by the implementation of effective pest control measures, such as traps and other pest control products and general pest control strategies.
Ensuring the workforce has proper training is of paramount importance, and employees must be aware of professional food handling practices. They must be directed to follow a stringent cleaning schedule and receive training in the necessary skills to store food safely and clean external areas to prevent the threat of infestation.
Control becomes an important aspect in circumstances where an infestation poses an ongoing risk. Here, monitoring and inspection must be meticulous and carried out on a regular basis by properly trained staff and external pest control partners, especially in those areas of the restaurant business most likely to attract pests.
Should a pest infestation be identified, quarantine and contain the affected area by sanitising it with pesticides or other pest control chemicals and sealing it off.
Once all pest control measures have been implemented, it may still be necessary to carry out pest extermination. Depending on the severity of the infestation, either chemical or non-chemical pest control methods – as approved by the British Pest Control Association – can be used.
We would strongly advice working with a professional pest control company to ensure adherence to the above measures and peace of mind that your premises are free from pests.
Infestations can have a devastating impact on restaurants when not properly managed or, even worse, ignored.
The costs are also varying in nature. There is a clear financial cost due to reputational harm, the subsequent drop in customers, and the need to replace hardware that has been damaged by pest behaviour.
Then there are the legal costs. If a few hundred pounds seems steep to manage pest control yourself or to contract a professional pest control company, the expense can soon be put into perspective. Not least at the prospect of a visit from the Food Standards Agency, local council, or the imposition of regulatory penalties that can run into the hundreds of thousands.
Of greatest importance, however, is the potential cost to human health of pest infestations. Restaurant businesses have an ethical as well as a legal obligation to ensure their products are fit for human consumption and that all measures to prevent an infestation have been taken. The knowledge that your negligence has done harm to a fellow human being will likely weigh much heavier than any fine or loss of reputation.
It is therefore essential for a business to take the necessary steps to proactively prevent pests and engage in pest management to guarantee its food safety, protect its reputation, avoid financial loss, and meet every legal requirement.
Get expert pest control support
Harvey Environmental delivers exceptional commercial pest control and washroom solutions to businesses across the UK.
Customers who choose us enjoy a customer-led approach to their pest control issues underpinned with expert advice and guidance.
We provide an immediate solution to pest control issues, coupled with a bespoke maintenance programme offering long-term protection from future risk of infestation, working with client teams to provide long-term and sustainable solutions.
Highly qualified and leading on the latest legislation and technologies, our pest control technicians are experts in their respective fields. Together, we strive hard to ensure customers always receive industry-leading advice and a five-star service.
If you feel you would benefit from our expert pest control services to rid your business premises of pests, get in touch.