pest management pests

Keep the dirtiest pests out of your restaurant with Integrated Pest Management

By Alice Sinia, Ph.D.

Pests are a year-round threat to restaurants, which provide an endless supply of food, water and shelter. But they aren’t the only ones keeping foodservice establishments top of mind – local news outlets often report poor health inspection scores; diners can easily share pest sightings on social media and many restaurant health inspection reports are posted online. Because the presence of pests is considered high risk during a restaurant health inspection, restaurant owners and managers must be diligent in maintaining a pest free environment by instituting an effective pest management program.

To help prevent receiving a high-risk score and avoid negative publicity, it’s important to be aware of the dirtiest and most loathed pests that are the greatest risk to your restaurant – rodents, cockroaches and flies.

Rodents can sneak into your building through openings as small as a dime or hitch a ride on incoming food deliveries. Besides structural damage, once inside, rodents threaten your employees’ and diners’ health. Rats and mice can carry and transmit disease causing pathogens through their bites, saliva, urine and droppings. They also carry pathogen-transmitting eco-parasites such as fleas, lice and mites on their bodies. Some of the most common rodent-borne diseases are salmonellosis (food poisoning), lymphocytic chorio-meningitis (LCM) and Hantavirus, which can cause headaches, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches. Spotting even one dropping or gnaw mark can be the first sign of a rodent introduction.

Cockroaches can enter your restaurant through openings as small as 1/16 of an inch, and they’re more likely to stay when the weather cools down. Any holes or cracks in your building, as well as damaged door seals or sweeps, can provide a welcome entrance. These unpleasant pests can carry more than 30 kinds of bacteria, trigger allergies and cause food poisoning and pneumonia. Since cockroaches are great hiders, infestation indicators include cast skins (the skin they shed as they grow), sputum (a dark material cockroaches spit up) and droppings, which can range in size depending on the type of cockroach (some droppings look like pepper).

Flies are the most common and dirtiest of restaurant pests. These filth insects can carry billions of harmful microorganisms including E. coli and Salmonella, which can lead to serious illnesses in humans. Without a proper pest management program in place, flies will have no trouble slipping into your restaurant, and they thrive on the food and trash found inside. Unfortunately, the presence of flies is quite obvious to your patrons.

So how do you keep these pests from eating up your bottom line? Consider implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan – a proactive approach to pest management customized to your individual needs. IPM focuses on reducing conditions conducive to pests through a three-step approach:

1. Assess the situation

Your pest management provider should conduct a comprehensive assessment  of your restaurant and surrounding property to identify pest pressure points such as sanitation or structural deficiencies that could allow pests entry.

2. Implement corrective actions

Work with your pest management provider to develop a customized plan that includes proactive techniques such as monitoring, physical exclusion, sanitation and non-chemical treatments.

3. Monitor effectiveness

Ensure your pest management partner conducts regular inspections to monitor your plan’s effectiveness and make updates as needed.

IPM is an ongoing cycle that emphasizes a partnership between your pest management provider and your team. Restaurant staff should focus their efforts on proactive sanitation and maintenance of the restaurant. Here are tips for your staff to use during routine cleaning:

  • Keep your patio clean. Patios offer the perfect pest habitat, so be careful not to let your cleaning efforts become lax. Patios should be cleaned vigorously, just like the inside of your restaurant.
  • Take care of trash ASAP. It’s no secret pests are attracted to the odours coming from trash cans. Reduce odours by covering trash cans with tightly sealed lids, emptying them at least daily, washing them down regularly and lining them to avoid debris buildup.
  • Maintain a spotless kitchen. One of the chief causes of back-of-house pests is a dirty kitchen. Clean up spills, fix leaks immediately, scrub floor drains and never leave full trash cans or unwashed dishes overnight.
  • Inspect exterior of building. To help keep pests out, seal any holes or cracks in your building or around utility penetrations with weather-resistant sealant. Check door seals and door sweeps monthly and replace them as soon as wear is noted.
  • Inspect food shipments. Pests can enter your establishment on food, on equipment or in boxes. Use a UV black light to inspect for rodent urine on shipments, in delivery trucks and in loading areas. Propping a door open for a delivery welcomes pests into your restaurant, so ensure doors remain closed whenever possible.

IPM requires you to stay diligent, but the hard work will be well worth it not having to read a health inspection headline about pest problems in your restaurant.

About the author:

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is Quality Assurance Manager – Regulatory/Lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as provides technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at [email protected] or visit