Keeping pesky pests out of your restaurant

By Brandon Thorsell

As restaurants maintain safety standards and practices by checking temperatures, cleaning up spills, and sanitizing stations, there may be weak spots in your building that allow pests to enter and nest as they look for accessible food sources.

Without a grasp on how and why these animals enter your commercial kitchen, you could be left vulnerable to an infestation. Let’s look at why wildlife is attracted to your building, what pests you might be exposed to, and how to limit the risk of their entering your restaurant.

Understanding the problem

Wildlife is attracted to food, and restaurants can be a tempting source. While searching for sustenance, animals can contaminate the surfaces they touch, potentially causing risks to human health. Their feces and urine can also be dangerous and carry various parasites and diseases.

Beyond health risks, wildlife can damage wires, walls, and foul building materials as they go through your facility, searching for a place to build a nest. On top of health and safety concerns, customers may complain about unsanitary conditions, leading to a drop in revenue and an overall decrease in reputation and negative reviews.

Depending on your restaurant’s size, location, and food storage practices, you face a range of potential risks for wildlife access. Take preventative measures for the best defense and to help avoid unexpected costly consequences like repair, replacement, work stoppage, pest removal, and more.

Common nuisances found in restaurants

Some animals are more likely to invade commercial kitchens than others, and their persistence makes them a troublesome headache. Additionally, they can expand their populations or attract the same species to the area, quickly growing into an out-of-control infestation.

  • Rats pose a risk of contaminating food, causing health hazards through droppings, and damaging infrastructure with gnawing. Sightings can harm your restaurant’s reputation and lead to legal issues.
  • Similarly, mice bring food contamination and diseases. Their gnawing harms structures and can cause inventory loss. A negative image can arise from ongoing infestations where your guests see these pests or evidence of their existence.
  • Birds can contaminate food, spread diseases through droppings, and damage infrastructure by nesting. Their noise disrupts customers, and feces can mar the exterior look of your restaurant.

How can you deter pests from visiting and entering your restaurant? Here are five ways you can keep them out:

Entry points

Wildlife can fit into spaces much smaller than their actual size, so perform interior and exterior checks to identify these entry points, including vents, cracks, and gaps, and seal them accordingly. Use wire mesh over vents that require adequate airflow and caulking to cover smaller holes. Metal flashing works well over larger areas to deter pests. Keep in mind that securing entry points should be an ongoing process since rats and mice may create new ones if they find old ones unavailable.

Cleanliness, waste management, and food storage

During daily operations, encourage consistent cleaning practices to discourage pests from being attracted to your restaurant. Staff should be wiping up spills and sweeping food debris promptly. When prepping, try using airtight containers for storage to keep a lid on potential wafting food smells.

Kitchen scraps and food waste end up in garbage bags, but without proper disposal, animals can tear into these with ease. Consider improving your waste management practices to stop this from happening. Use sturdy trash bins with click-seal lids, and where possible, ensure trash is taken offsite regularly.

Landscaping strategies

Landscaping can help with the aesthetic appeal of your restaurant, but it can also attract wildlife. Take the time to trim overgrown trees, shrubs, and greenery that can provide shelter and create a path close to your commercial kitchen for animals. Regular maintenance, such as grass cutting and raking leaves can also be part of landscape strategies to discourage wildlife.

Consider further exterior measures, such as installing deterrents like fencing around garbage and netting near entryways to keep rats and mice out. In the case of birds, roof spikes are a simple option that can stop them from roosting.

Staff training

Your staff plays a crucial role in helping to prevent wildlife encounters in your restaurant. Implement educational measures on proper procedures, including common mistakes to avoid and signs to look out for. Make sure to review your pest control measures and practices with your teams, including the reporting of any suspected animal activity immediately.

Professional pest control services

Due to the risk of wildlife behaviour resulting in potential infestations, working with a professional pest control company can offer a comprehensive approach. Whether or not removal is required, the professionals can complete routine inspections, including checking entry points, setting rodent bait stations outside, placing bird deterrents, and tackling any sign of infestation immediately. Even when you are vigilant, there is a risk of infestation. When that happens, a professional wildlife removal company can eliminate the problem and offer preventative measures to keep animals from returning.

Wildlife in or around your restaurant can be a challenge. Armed with the knowledge of why and how animals invade, and with proper prevention initiatives, your restaurant can continue to uphold the highest standards and work to avoid potential issues with wildlife.

Brandon Thorsell is the District Manager of Critter Control in Toronto and the GTA, where he has been exposed to wildlife control for most of his life. After completing university in 2008, Brandon made a full-time commitment to the wildlife control industry, working alongside family in their owned and operated Critter Control franchise, established in 1990. Now part of Rollins, INC, Brandon is excited to see the industry continue to grow and evolve as new markets open, and new techniques and technology emerge.