pest prevention pests

Keep pests off the menu this winter

By Alice Sinia, Ph.D.

As the weather cools, winter months can force unwanted pests inside to stay warm or to overwinter. Food, shelter and water attract pests, and your restaurant offers these resources. As these dirty, nuisance and destructive invaders seek relief from the cold, it’s important that you create a defense and prepare your restaurant before they invade and make themselves at home this winter.

The most effective way to prevent and combat pest problems is to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan, which requires everyone’s involvement from management, maintenance and landscaping crews, to employees and pest management professionals. If pests settle onto your restaurant property, they can cause structural damage, pose serious health risks, impact your bottom line and tarnish your reputation with customers.

Educate your employees on the most common pests this time of year, signs of an infestation, what to do in case of a pest sighting and best practices around sanitation, trash management, maintenance and exclusion to make sure you have a recipe with the right ingredients to keep pests from affecting your business.

The first step to keeping these cold weather invaders out is identifying which pests are most prevalent during the winter. Here are a few pests you’re at risk to see scurrying around your restaurant:

  • Rodents. Rats and mice love finding warm places to take shelter, and there’s no better place than inside your restaurant.
  • Ants. Ants are structure-invading insects, and ant sightings in the winter could indicate a larger infestation inside your restaurant.
  • Spiders. Fall is mating season for spiders and in some cases, they may be looking to your business for a warm retreat for the long winter ahead.
  • Overwintering insects, such as stink bugs, boxleder bugs, cluster flies, ground beetles and ladybugs gather to the exterior wall of buildings where they eventually enter indoors, seeking warm sites to overwinter. On warmer days, they can awake from their sleep and become a problem indoors, nuisance to customers and contaminants of food products and surfaces.

Secure the exterior

Pests are not shy when it comes to entering your restaurant without an invitation. The biggest pest threats often start outside your building, and rodents and crawling pests like spiders and cockroaches can easily creep in through small openings. Inspect and identify potential entry points around the restaurant that may have resulted from structural deterioration or weather effects. Monitor these external areas closely to help prevent pest invasions:

  • Inspect exterior walls regularly for cracks and fill holes with water-resistant sealant.
  • Maintain landscaping, especially around entrances since pests will often feed on vegetation sites.
  • Ensure that your restaurant’s dumpster is kept closed and is cleaned by a contractor on a frequent basis.
  • Trim tree limbs and bushes and remove fallen leaves quickly so pests cannot use them for cover.
  • Install and maintain weather stripping and door sweeps to help prevent pest entry.
  • Partner with a pest management professional to take appropriate exclusion measures, such as placing rodent bait stations around your restaurant’s exterior, keeping them a safe distance from doors and entryways.

pest management pests

Sanitation tips

Proper sanitation plays a key role in successful pest management by removing incentives for pests to come inside. Incorporate these tips into your regular sanitation efforts to help keep pests out:


  • Clean up food spills, especially in hard to reach areas and dead-end spaces such as behind stoves, fridges and storage shelves.
  • Fix leaks immediately to remove excess water that could attract pests.
  • Line garbage receptacles and keep the lids tightly sealed. Empty trash on daily basis, as the odours can attract pests looking for food.
  • Empty and rinse beverage recycling receptacles on a daily basis to prevent small fly breeding.
  • Pests can feed on the residue in drains and on equipment, so choose an organic cleaner to eliminate the build-up.
  • Thoroughly clean and dry dishes at the end of the day.

Dining areas

  • Thoroughly clean all dining areas at the end of the day by wiping down surfaces.
  • Sweep regularly to reduce access to easy snacks for pests, such as crumbs on the floor.

Storage areas

  • Place food supplies on open-backed shelving to remove pest hiding spots.
  • Rotate goods on a first in, first out (FIFO) basis so older products are always at the front of the storage area.
  • Inspect boxes for signs of pest activity, such as droppings, gnaw marks and urine.
  • Monitor these areas by use of pest monitors, such as insect glue boards.

Include your employees

Your employees are your eyes and ears on the floor and in the kitchen – especially when it comes to monitoring and reporting pest problems. It’s important to note that a successful pest management program is an ongoing team effort, especially since health inspectors can show up at any time.

By implementing these tips as part of your IPM plan, your restaurant can enjoy the winter season with a lower risk of unwanted guests like rodents, cockroaches and spiders. Talk with your pest management provider about customized ways to best protect your establishment from these and other seasonal pests.

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 15 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 or visit

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