When Bryan Baird first started treating commercial kitchen accounts for small flies, he admits, “If I had to tell a technician the worst way to do it, that’s what I did. I literally did it the wrong way.”

It’s not that Baird went into the service blind. He had researched products and thoroughly inspected accounts. He knew exactly where small flies loved to harbor, and he was effective at finding the root of an infestation and using the cleaning and treatment tools he had in his arsenal.

But what was “the worst” is how he explained the issue to customers. “You can’t just say to a restaurant manager, ‘sanitation,’ because that means something different to everyone,” he says. “You have to teach people, get down on your hands and knees, and show them what you are talking about.”

Baird learned this the hard way with a restaurant account that he almost lost. “They said, ‘We are paying you this money but you’re not doing wat you’re supposed to be doing,’” he says. What he wasn’t doing was giving the restaurant specific cleaning and sanitation protocols.

He started taking pictures, discussing ways to better sanitize and how to avoid creating an environment where small flies thrive. He got specific. Communication is, perhaps, the most important aspect of treating small flies.

“We saved the account, and he has called other restaurants and recommended us,” Baird says, relating how the manager took his recommendations seriously and the job became a true partnership. “Don’t depend on chemicals — depend on training. It’s a group effort, and sanitation is the No. 1 thing to do.”

CLEANING OUT SMALL FLIES

What not to do: Fire up a pressure washer, douse grease-covered floors with blasts of hot water, aiming carefully at the bases of equipment like fryers and ovens while pushing grimy water down the drains.

How many times do you walk into a new commercial kitchen account and learn that this spray-it-away method is their go-to for sanitation? “This is one of the most common poor practices we see,” says Doug Foster, owner of Burt’s Termite & Pest Control, Columbus, Ind. “Almost everyone thinks, ‘Oh, we’ll deep clean this weekend and bring in the power washer, but you know that blows stuff everywhere,’” he said. “So, the debris that used to be confined under a piece of equipment is now blown up the wall behind the equipment. It just scatters the organic material everywhere.”

Bryan Baird says, “People do not understand that sanitation isn’t just taking the trash out.” That’s why his team at Baird’s Pest Control in Valdosta, Ga., shows customers videos that explain where small flies harbor. He keeps in contact with the night managers at restaurants. “We come by every once in a while at closing time to say, ‘How is everything going? Is there anything we can help you do?’ We get the communication going.”

In terms of treating small fly, the pest management professionals (PMPs) we talked to agree that thorough inspections, client education/communication and implementation of sanitization best practices are the best ways to achieve and maintain small fly control.

1. Inspection, Please

A “stacked” approach to treating small flies at Sprague Pest Solutions based in Tacoma, Wash., begins with an inspection to locate the source, says Technical Trainer Ashley Roden. “That inspection helps us solve the problem way faster,” she says. “When we talk to customers, we let them know we want to be able to do that good inspection — we are not checking traps and leaving.”

Inspection takes the bulk of the time for each service visit, Roden adds.

These inspections can lead to sources that customers are surprised to discover.

For example, Blasingame says nasty tools are an unexpected nesting place. “You know long-handled dust pans?” he relates. “They don’t ever clean them.”

That is, until Blasingame points out how small fly infestations happen. Mop heads, mop sinks, buckets, dust pans — “we bring these issues to the forefront, and our customers really see value in that,” he says.

2. Help Us Help You

That’s the name of a worksheet Doug Foster hands out to small fly customers. Essentially, it’s a form that allows his team members to document issues. “We’ll write down things like, ‘The drain under the ice machine needs cleaning,’” he relates. “At least we’ve got record of everything, and most of the time we leave it with the manager, but a lot of times a copy is attached to the invoice that goes to the controller — the owner — and then, stuff magically gets done.”

Explaining during a walk-through is important. “But just telling them is not good enough,” Foster says. “We need something in writing.”

3. Smart Sanitizing

n many kitchens, sanitization is nothing more than moving dirt around or bleaching gunk. A combination of fill-zone treatments, drain-cleaning and bio-remediation products are necessary to clean out a small fly problem.

Doug Foster also suggests his customers get drain cleanings on a quarterly basis. He partnered with a professional who specializes in this service, and they refer customers to each other. “If they stick with that cleaning on a regular basis combined with our services, that basically resolves many of the problems,” he says.

Like with all pest problems, a full toolbox is required for treating small flies. PMPs should discuss expectations with clients so they realize there’s no silver bullet or overnight solution, says Billy Blasingame, Blasingame Pest Management. “Many people think once you come in, you’ll spray and they can clean later,” he says. “Teach them A to Z how a small fly program works so they understand it’s not just about the products, it’s about cooperation and doing their part with sanitization — and staying diligent.”