A mouse sniffs the ground.

Hide and Seek: Identifying the top 5 pest hiding spots in restaurants

By Alice Sinia, PhD

As spring approaches, that means active pest season is right around the corner too. Before it gets here, you want to be sure that your pest management program is as effective as possible. Even with the best of programs focused on proactive, preventive maintenance, sanitation and ongoing monitoring, there are still several potential conducive hiding spots that are often overlooked. These hot spots, or microhabitats, can easily attract, breed and harbour pests if prevention measures are not taken now. The last thing you want is a seemingly harmless oversight to have a huge impact on your business down the road.

The same elements that draw in your guests — food, drinks, ambiance — can also unintentionally lure in pests. If you are not vigilant, your restaurant can quickly become a dining destination for pests, which is damaging to your reputation and relationships built with your restaurant’s regulars. Below are five of the top pest hot spots frequently found in restaurants.

1. Areas at risk of buildup and backups: Grease traps that are neglected and not properly cleaned get clogged, resulting in backups and overflows in the drainage system as well as leaking onto the subflooring and walls. This creates breeding grounds for many types of pesky small flies. Similarly, poorly maintained floor drains and mop sinks can also lead to buildup of organic matter inside the drain, in the water trap and on the underside of cover grids, providing the ideal breeding conditions for drain flies. Built up grease from ovens, stoves, fryers (really anywhere with a canopy or hood) can quickly become a source of food and shelter for German cockroaches. These areas need to be monitored often and properly cleaned on a regular basis.

2. Bar areas and beverage dispensing machines: If you have fruit flies or phorid flies in the bar or dinning areas, it could be a sign that either drain sinks and tubes, drip trays, backsplashes, nozzles, diffusers and/or valves are being neglected or not cleaned properly and as frequently as they should be. Sludge buildup and fermentation from the beverages provide a breeding ground for flies. Beer bottles and cans should be drained and rinsed out, disposed of in a lined trashcan with a lid and then taken to the dumpster at the end of the day. The bottom of the trashcan should be drained, rinsed and wiped dry prior to replacing liner. Simple sanitation steps like these can make a huge difference in the likelihood of pest activity in these areas.

3. Underneath and inside large kitchen equipment: Often overlooked in the cleaning process of large, fixed kitchen equipment are the small nooks and crannies that can collect food particles and moisture, which can attract and breed insects. A common mistake in a lot of restaurants, pressure washing the floors can drive all of that dirt and debris underneath equipment and counters. If not part of your sanitation routine, this decaying organic matter can become breeding and feeding grounds for pests.

4. Grout in between tiles and unsealed floor joints: Often from wear and tear over time, mopping the floor can actually trap organic matter and debris. Similarly, floor joints can loosen over time, leading to another gap capable of harbouring pest attractants. Hosing down and monitoring these areas for when maintenance is needed will help eliminate these often-forgotten spots on the floor from attracting filthy pests.

5. Patio landscaping and lighting: Utilizing patio dining space will only turn up the heat on outside pest pressures. Some of the most common culprits include rodents, ants, gnats, wasps and birds. Luckily, sanitation and some smart decisions around landscaping and lighting choices can help make this area more of an oasis for guests, not pests.

  • For example, fleshy fruit producing plants and brightly coloured and fragrant flowers can attract pests, while others such as dense vines allow potential nesting and harbourage sites.
  • In addition to the types of landscaping, the way you plant and water them also plays a role. Overwatering plants or using soil that does not drain excess moisture can lead to enough standing water for fungus gnats and midges to linger in.
  • Selecting LED or sodium vapour lights is also a good move because they are less likely to attract flying insects than fluorescent and mercury bulbs. Also, be sure to tighten the light fixtures completely if they are enclosed to prevent small pests from getting inside and settling at the bottom of the fixture for guests to see.
  • Lastly, consider bird proofing the patio ceiling in spots where birds like to perch and nest, such as eaves, flat ledges, panels and gutters. Birds can also perch on patio furniture, which gives you even more reason to bird proof outdoor dining areas.

If any of these potential hot spots are not included in your routine maintenance and cleaning plans, consider adding them to the list and discussing with your pest management provider. Remember, you want to take steps to protect your restaurant from pests now, before they can become an issue. The best way to do that is through strategic, proactive sanitation, maintenance and monitoring measures in these critical areas and more.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is quality assurance manager of regulatory/lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 20 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 asinia@orkincanada.com or visit www.orkincanada.com.

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