Why More Restaurants Have Rats During The Pandemic

While Remy and his Parisian rat family from "Ratatouille" certainly seem friendly, the reality is that few diners enjoy seeing rats in restaurant settings. In recent months, there has been a surge in sightings of scurrying rodents — and they're unfortunately not as adorable as the infamous Pizza Rat was. Amid reports of rat "conga lines" and crossing signs by The New York Times, people have also noticed a significant increase in the number of rats hanging around restaurants' pandemic-era outdoor dining setups.

As to why more pests seem to be scrounging around for food at restaurants these days, the underlying circumstances are pretty logical. As Eater reports, urban rats lost their normal sources of food and eating patterns at the beginning of the pandemic, when restaurants were closed and everyone ate inside their homes, and began searching the streets for snacks in broad daylight. When eateries began building outdoor dining areas, the animals emerged with enthusiasm to feast on the newly available scraps — and people have been outside more to notice them. Disturbingly, diners in cities such as New York City and Chicago have increasingly reported seeing huge numbers of rats at all times of the day and night, even crawling over their feet during their outdoor dinner reservations.

When will the restaurant rat problems start to scurry away?

When a guest sits down to dinner, an unwelcome rodent guest can be more bothersome than an overcooked steak. During the pandemic, rats seemed to have become bolder in their quest to eat every discarded crumb. What are restaurants to do? Although The New Republic discussed the concept of elaborate rat traps to alleviate the rodent issue, some restaurants are simply trying to adapt. As reported by Eater, most restaurants' outdoor dining spaces typically have no barriers to keep unwelcome rats away. Some businesses have had to rebuild their setups after discovering terrible odors caused by decomposing rats that had gotten stuck in the makeshift flooring.

Even as restaurants experiment with new methods of extermination, barriers to rat entry, and trash disposal, effective change will likely take time. Fortunately, one restaurant owner described to Eater that diners have been understanding about the rat issues of outdoor dining. Moreover, an expert from the National Pest Management Association pointed out that the presence of rats outdoors doesn't always point to a dirty kitchen, and that our eventual return to indoor dining should alleviate the problem. While the pandemic has heaped many obstacles on the restaurant industry, this pest issue joins the long list of barriers that it will overcome.