Pest-Free Outdoor Dining

No matter what type of restaurant you operate, pests are a nuisance that you'll have to address. When the correct steps are taken, pest control is easily managed and secures the success of your business.

Not only do pests endanger your establishment by potentially carrying harmful bacteria and disease, they are also an annoyance to customers and can drive them away. Outdoor pests are a unique challenge, as they can completely ruin a customer’s visit to your restaurant. As a result, understanding how to deal with outdoor pests and avoid attracting them altogether is key to hosting a successful outdoor dining experience.

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Outdoor Dining

Outdoor dining has become one of the most prominent trends in the restaurant industry. The COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurants to get creative in how they served customers, and outdoor dining was a common solution that allowed restaurants to keep customers socially distant. However, the trend appears to be here to stay because it offers an opportunity for patrons to enjoy a tasty meal while simultaneously taking in the great outdoors. Many restaurants are turning their outdoor dining areas into winter dining destinations, hoping to capitalize on al fresco dining during the colder months.

Types of Common Outdoor Pests

Outdoor dining is a great way to offer a new dining experience to your customers, however your establishment's outdoor dining area may attract many different types of outdoor pests. These outdoor pests are different from indoor pests that commonly plague restaurants like mice and cockroaches. However, each type of outdoor pest still presents their own unique problems and challenges to a restaurant, and each has different reasons for pestering patrons in your outdoor dining space.

1. Flies

close up of house fly on wooden surface

Flies are a common outdoor pest that frequently annoy guests and have the potential to spread bacteria and disease if they land on food items.

  • What Attracts Flies - These pests are often attracted to trash cans or discarded food items.
  • How to Repel Flies - Remove trash recepticles from your outdoor dining area and routinely clean up trash from the ground to avoid attracting them.

2. Mosquitos

Mosquitos are a major pest problem because their bites can cause pain, itchiness, and swelling, as well as transmit some serious diseases.

  • What Attracts Mosquitos - Mosquitos are generally attracted to free-standing water and plants.
  • How to Repel Mosquitos - Limit decorative water items in your outdoor dining area, quickly clean up liquid spills, and maintain shrubbery around your dining area to avoid attracting mosquitos.

3. Stinging Pests

close up of bumble bee on tree

Pests like bees and wasps are notorious for stinging unsuspecting victims, sometimes causing extreme pain or serious allergic reactions.

  • What Attracts Stinging Pests - Bees and wasps are attracted to bright colors and sugary substances.
  • How to Repel Stinging Pests - Avoid using bright colors in your dining area decor and ensure that no brightly colored flowers are planted nearby. Additionally quickly clean up spills of sugary liquid substances to limit the presence of stinging pests.

4. Ants

Ants are a crawling pest that can ruin a customer's appetite and signify that your outdoor area isn't clean.

  • What Attracts Ants - Ants will often come out to collect crumbs and eat other garbage items.
  • How to Repel Ants - Routinely clean up garbage from your outdoor dining area and frequently empty trash recepticles. Regularly cut and maintain grassy areas around your outdoor dining area to limit nesting opportunities for ants.

How to Keep Pests Away

Pests can be a major nuisance and disrupt the outdoor dining experience at your establishment. Regardless of how great other areas of your outdoor dining experience are, a few pests can ruin a customer's experience and drive them away. Thankfully, these methods allow you to eliminate existing pests from your outdoor dining area and prevent new pests from appearing.

1. Thorough Restaurant Cleaning

The most critical aspect of creating a pest-free outdoor dining experience is following standard restaurant cleaning protocols and properly cleaning your outdoor dining area. If your establishment is struggling to create a clean outdoor environment, hiring a restaurant cleaning service is a great way to ensure that your outdoor dining area remains clean and pest-free.

Try taking these steps to deter pests from your establishment's outdoor dining area:

  • Remove dinnerware from the dining area as soon as customers are finished to avoid attracting flies and ants.
  • Keep the ground in your outdoor dining area free of crumbs and other food items, because pests will snack on any food items available to them.
  • Immediately clean any spills of sugary substances or other liquids to prevent the appearance of bees, wasps, and mosquitos.
  • Keep up with landscaping by ensuring that grassy areas are routinely mowed and frequently trim branches and shrubbery around your outdoor dining area.
  • Routinely check and clean outdoor cracks and crevices with pressure washers, as these often overlooked areas can become a haven for pests.

2. Practice Garbage Control

woman throwing away trash in large red trash can

Many of the most common outdoor pests are attracted to a location due to excess garbage. Not only is it important to keep your outdoor dining areas clean, but you also need to pay attention to your establishment’s outdoor trash receptacles.

You should not keep trash receptacles anywhere near your outdoor dining area, as the garbage inside will attract many different types of pests. If you must keep an outdoor trash receptacle near your outdoor dining area, ensure the bin is covered with a lid to deter flying pests from hovering. Frequently emptying your outdoor trash and recycling receptacles to ensure the garbage inside doesn't pile up will also help keep pests away.

3. Install Outdoor Fans

Outdoor fans are a fantastic way of deterring flying pests from your outdoor dining area while simultaneously creating a more comfortable environment for customers. Flying pests like bees, wasps, and flies are easily blown away by the comfortable breeze put off by outdoor fans.

At the same time, these fans can also be used to keep temperatures around your outdoor dining area cool for customers. Just make sure you’re smart about the placement of your fans, ensuring that they’re not blowing directly onto customers.

4. Set-Up Bug Zappers

black bug zapper outside

Bug zappers are one of the top products to use if you’re looking for a way to create a pest-free outdoor dining area. Outdoor bug zappers are designed to be unobtrusive, meaning they won’t be noticed or disrupt the dining experience of customers. Despite being discrete, bug zappers do a great job of attracting flying pests with their light. Not only do these bug zappers attract pests away from your dining area, they promptly zap the pests and eliminate the problem altogether.

5. Rearrange Light Fixtures

Restaurant lighting is always an important aspect of the dining experience, but it is especially important in your outdoor dining area. Many outdoor pests are attracted to light, and as a result, flying pests will hover around outdoor light fixtures such as lamps. The hotter and brighter an outdoor light is, the more flying pests it will likely attract.

To avoid a swarm of flying pests, try using items like LED light bulbs that produce less heat and aren’t overwhelmingly bright. Additionally, you’ll want to consider placing light fixtures away from seating areas in your outdoor dining area, as you don’t want pests swarming around an area where customers are sitting and eating.

6. Place Herbal Centerpieces

A unique way to prevent outdoor pests is by creating your own herbal centerpieces to place in your outdoor dining areas. Many herbs such as basil, mint, thyme, and rosemary serve as natural pest repellents, making them a great option to keep insects away. Plant a variety of herbs in small planters, creating a naturally beautiful collection of herbs. These filled planters can then serve a dual purpose, being both a decorative centerpiece and a deterrent for insects and other pests.

7. Burn Citronella Candles

Citronella candles are another great product that your restaurant can take advantage of to create a pest-free environment. Citronella candles are made of citronella oil, a natural bug repellent. When burned, these candles can keep bugs away from your outdoor dining area, all while setting the mood and serving as a great decoration.


Keeping pests away from your restaurant’s outdoor dining area is an important part of successfully integrating outdoor dining into your restaurant experience. Although there isn’t one singular fix to eliminate outdoor pests, properly maintaining your outdoor dining area and taking the correct steps combine to create a pest-free dining experience. Depending on your situation and location, different solutions may or may not work for your restaurant. Mix and match different preventive measures and solutions, and see what works best for your establishment.

Posted in: Food Safety | Management & Operation | Seasonal | By Kevin Singhel
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