I recall, in 2009, hearing about the first Army Navy in the Philippines located along Tagaytay Ridge in Tagaytay City, almost 50 km south of Manila. In no time at all, this casual burger-burrito restaurant became popular, and branched out to other major cities in the Philippines.
The branding was unique because each restaurant’s architectural design takes inspiration from military Quonset Huts commonly described as World War I lightweight prefabricated structures of corrugated galvanized iron with a semicircular cross-section.
A camp-style dining experience was promised, along with freshly prepared, premium quality burgers and burritos. Popular bestsellers nowadays include the Bully Boy Burger, a triple-patty burger topped with onions, lettuce and tomato served in a Kaiser Bun dotted with black & white sesame seeds, and the Steak Burrito made with 100% high-quality beef.
I have dined in its various locations and have been satisfied with the quality of the food, service, and ambiance.
On August 26, 2019, however, after coming from Baguio City, my family decided to eat at its branch in City Mall SCTEX in Barangay Santiago, municipality of Concepcion, in the province of Tarlac.
It took us about 4 hours to reach Tarlac because of the volume of tourists leaving Baguio after a long holiday weekend, so we were all hungry.
As expected, the mall was full of people and there were long lines of customers, regardless of restaurant. Army Navy seemed to be inviting even if we had to wait for 25 minutes to be served. We found a table and waited for our orders.
Alas, we immediately noticed that there were flies all around – the tables, glass walls, floor, etc. I noticed that a single candle was provided on our table, but it was no deterrent for these insects, what with two full and uncovered waste disposal bins near our table. Even the kids who were with us covered their mouths for fear of a fly entering their mouth, no kidding!
We wanted to leave but we were famished by then, and we were sure that we could consume our orders in no time at all. My husband wanted to order some french fries from a famous potato stall just outside Army Navy while waiting for our orders, but decided not to do so due to the flies all over that stall too!
As usual, the mother hen in me, after hearing the number of the previous customer being called, stood up and waited patiently for our number to be called next at the claim-counter. That was where I noticed that food orders not immediately claimed were exposed to the risk of flies to landing on them.
Our orders were placed on trays, one by one, and I requested them to be covered with their paper lining. I told family members to immediately eat and protect their orders from the flies.
My Coke Zero in can was given out earlier, along with the beverage orders of the rest of my family. I told my son to cover it while it was placed on top of our table.
The Tortilla Soup I ordered, followed, and I ate it at the claim-counter because I was really so hungry. The Bacon Cheese Fries came next. I had it covered after I took a couple of fries (sorry, I was so hungry). I then asked my son to bring it to the table and share it with others.
I ordered two Chipotle Crispy Chicken Sandwiches and only one was released. I gave that to a nephew. My sandwich was taking so long, and would you believe that it came last? When I went back to our table, most of my companions have finished eating and gave me feedback that they did not enjoy the meal because of the hovering flies. So, I decided to take my orders out of the restaurant, and just eat and drink them in the van.
My companions who went to the rest rooms gave me feedback that flies were all over the mall and when they asked for the reason, they were told that the source were nearby poultry farms. Perhaps, it was time for the farms to clean their premises after selling their chicken stocks, your guess is as good as mine.
My only regret was that I was not able to take any picture to document this event. I was so hungry, busy supervising the release of our orders from the claim-counter, and just wanted to get out of this place.
This miserable dining experience was not acceptable, but we had to eat lunch at 2 pm after being stuck in traffic leaving Baguio for 4 hours and this was the first decent place to stop and eat. Almost all restaurants in that mall were full at that time.
I personally do not know the cause of the fly infestation and what the stakeholders are doing to solve this situation, but bottom-line, as a customer of Army Navy on August 26, 2019, I found this situation unsanitary, and hazardous, and the CityMall and restaurant management insensitive to the customers, to say the least.
I featured the Philippine food safety standards and fly infestation in restaurants in two separate posts: A GLIMPSE OF PHILIPPINE FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS and SAY, SAY, SAY: FLY INFESTATION IN RESTAURANTS. I am not aware what the restaurant, mall and local government units (LGUs) are doing regarding this fly infestation, but based on Philippine food safety standards and my brief dining experience in this restaurant, the following are my appeals and suggestions.
1. To the LGUs, specifically the leaders of Barangay Santiago and the town of Concepcion in Tarlac: Simply implement your mandate as per Republic Act No. 10611 – the Food Safety Act of 2013. That law stipulates that you have the primary responsibility for food safety in food businesses in your jurisdiction.
Have you investigated the cause of the fly infestation in this barangay? Implemented and enforced the food safety law? The customers of the various restaurants in this mall, and perhaps even the residents of the barangay, are definitely affected by this infestation.
What have your food safety inspectors done? Why renew the permits of erring businessmen? Are you not compelled to issue even just a suspension order to erring entities until they would comply with sanitary requirements?
If the inspector sees the flies on an inspection visit, every restaurant in the mall could be given a bad rating, or even be closed until the inspector is satisfied that the source is eliminated, and that steps have been taken to prevent the problem coming back.
For sure, customers will see the flies and eventually steer clear of the mall, costing business owners’ money, and potentially costing staff their jobs.
2. To Army Navy and the other food establishments in City Mall: You are supposed to provide a safe and comfortable environment so your customers can enjoy your delicious food and refreshing drinks. Do you think the presence of this fly infestation provides such an environment? Is it not upsetting and detrimental to the health of your customers and staff? Eventually, your reputation will suffer, and this will ultimately affect your revenue!
Have any of your customers or staff become sick due to this infestation? If not, do you still have to wait for such to happen?
Have you discussed this problem with the CityMall management and the LGUs, as well as undergone risk analysis and implemented appropriate measures?
After seeing flies in the front-of-the-house areas of this restaurant, I cannot help but think about the condition of the fly infestation at the back-of-the-house (kitchens) of all the restaurants in this mall. Do you have the Hazard Analyses at Critical Control Points (HACCP) system in your establishments?
Army Navy management, in your official website, you claim that your restaurant denotes a military culture of discipline, command, service, freedom and honor. So tell me, what you have done to solve this health hazard?
Please keep dining room-trash containers covered, preferably use self-closing lids. Assign a restaurant staff to regularly empty receptacles at the front- and back-of-the-house, and keep the areas around them free of debris and rotting food.
Constantly educate your staff on the importance of maintaining a high level of hygiene in the establishment so the risks of a fly infestation will be minimized. A pest control program should be consistently implemented daily.1
3. To the CityMall authorities: Your mall is infested with flies! Did you investigate? And what have you done so that your customers will not be exposed to this hazard? I am sorry to say this, but CityMall management, you have lost my family as future customers, unless we will be assured that this will not happen again.
Have you coordinated with the LGUs about this problem? Can you, along with the other residents of this barangay who are affected by the flies, petition the LGUs to immediately act on this problem?
Have you sought advice from a professional mall-food service fly control expert? You can also form a Pest Control Team to develop an Integrated Pest Management plan to control the fly infestation problem in your mall.1 and 2
Similarly, you can develop an exclusion plan that is the safest and most practical method of preventing flies from entering your restaurant. Check the exterior of your mall for cracks or crevices, and fill them with caulk. Install weather stripping on windows and doors. If you can, add a set of sliding doors by the outside entrances as an extra barrier to any incoming pests. You can use high-speed fans near the exits and entrances to create air curtains that flies will have difficulty crossing.2
Light is a form of mechanical control for fly problems. Usually, insect light traps are most effective when placed near entrances such as windows and doors. It is important, however, to place lights in such a way that they cannot be seen from the outside. The goal is not to attract flies into your building, but to ensure that those already inside your building will be immediately drawn to the light source. Your pest management professional can suggest strategic locations for insect light traps, and can aid in installation. Be sure to include areas in your building that are not visible to the general public and customers.2
4. To nearby residents: I am so sure that you are also affected by this fly infestation. Have you complained about this to your barangay and mayor’s offices? Are you keen on getting rid of this health hazard? Have you petitioned authorities to remedy the situation, now and in the future? Has any member of your family become sick due to this infestation?
5. To the establishment/s which is/are the cause of this fly infestation: Why not be socially responsible businessmen, citizens and human beings, and practice the right way to get rid of the flies from your properties, rather than just allowing these insects to fly and affect the food safety of nearby residences as well as food establishments and their customers?
6. To all government agencies tasked to properly implement Republic Act No. 10611: Why not investigate this matter so that this will no longer happen in CityMall-Tarlac, as well as in other places in our beloved country? You have been tasked to undergo thorough and rigid inspection as well as protect consumer health nationwide. We are waiting.
I sincerely look forward to the day when CityMall Concepcion, Tarlac, will be a “No Fly Zone” and hungry people from Baguio will get to enjoy dining in any restaurant in this mall!
The restaurant information was obtained from https://www.armynavy.com.ph/.
I paid for my Army Navy-Concepcion, Tarlac visit, and all comments are personal, based on my August 26, 2019 experience.
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