pest management pests

Pest management during restaurant renovations

By Alice Sinia, Ph.D.

To keep up with changing times and styles, every restaurant will need to undergo a renovation at some point. An upgraded dining room and kitchen can do wonders, from revitalizing the dining atmosphere to enhancing the chef’s ability to turn around delicious dishes. However, renovations can also welcome unwanted guests – pests. After spending an arm and a leg on updates to your restaurant, these unsightly, germ-ridden nuisances are the last thing you want.

When diners come to your restaurant, they don’t expect to see a cockroach scurrying across the floor – or worse, on their plate! Pests are not only a nuisance and a deterrent to customers but also a health risk. In addition to costing your establishment points on the next inspection or even risking closure by the public health department, pests can transmit pathogens that cause food borne illnesses – such as food poisoning, diarrhea, dysentery, nausea, vomiting and even pneumonia. And during renovations, the restaurant is most vulnerable to pests as it is much easier for them to gain access inside your restaurant.

While tearing out the carpet and redesigning the floor plan, pests like rodents, ground beetles, outdoor cockroaches and spiders are taking advantage of the opportunity to get inside. They seek out establishments for the food, water and shelter that it provides, and the hustle and bustle of renovations can provide them with more chances to sneak in unnoticed. Rodents can enter the building through holes the size of a dime or a quarter, and cockroaches can fit through cracks only 1.5 millimetres wide. Spiders will find their way inside through open doors and windows or on the back of incoming boxes and building supplies intended to spruce up your new space. Once inside, these pests can harbour and make their home in the unfinished nooks and crannies of the building structures. If you aren’t careful, they could even get sealed inside walls and voids, making them difficult to manage once renovations are complete.

To help avoid increased pest pressures on your property, it’s important to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan before, during and after renovations. An IPM plan is a business savvy and environmentally responsible solution to pest management that emphasizes preventive techniques. Through inspection and monitoring, as well as effective exclusion, maintenance and sanitation, an Integrated Pest Management plan will help protect your restaurant and keep your renovated space free of pests.

Before renovations

Before renovations begin, work with a pest management professional to assess your property’s exterior pest pressures. Work to eliminate pest pressure points by taking the following proactive measures:

  • Monitor the restaurant to see which pests are already a threat. Once you know which pests are already on your property, you can develop a customized plan to help reduce the populations and keep them down.
  • Check the weather and monitor for moisture damage. If it’s going to rain a lot during your renovation timeline, moisture loving and fungal-feeding pests could become a larger threat as they are attracted to the moisture and feed on the fungi that grow on wet wood. If you plan renovations during colder months, it’s important to keep all doors and windows closed to prevent pests from entering the building as they seek warmth and shelter.
  • Grade the land around your property, if possible. Grading the land will help prevent puddles from forming and remove sources of water.
  • Choose pest resistant building materials. Materials like fiber-cement siding and non-cellulose insulation can deter pests.


During renovations

Once renovations are underway, it’s important to continue implementing your Integrated Pest Management plan. During this phase, your restaurant is at the highest risk of pest infestation, so staying vigilant is a must. Here are a few things you can do to help keep pests out of the construction zone:

  • Use reflected light – rather than direct light – to illuminate doorways and avoid attracting pests. Place lights farther away from the building and direct them to shine on the building façade. Any lights in the construction zone should be LED lights, which are less attractive to pests like flies.
  • Use steel mesh along with wall sealant to make it harder for rodents to gnaw through.
  • Cover building materials at the end of the workday to protect them against the elements – especially rain.
  • Have a sizable, properly-closing garbage compactor handy on construction and renovation sites. All garbage and debris should be throw in the compactor and emptied promptly. Garbage should not be left lying on the ground.
  • Revisit best practices for pest management. Keep doors closed, seal off utility penetrations, screen windows, install air curtains and place plastic strips in entranceways.
  • Install a first line of defense using a non-toxic baiting and monitoring system around the restaurant, especially in the renovation site to monitor and detect pest presence. If pests are detected, then it can controlled using the appropriate techniques.

After renovations

With renovations complete, you are ready to reopen your restaurant. But, this is not the time to slack on pest management. To keep momentum going and fight off any pests that called your property home during renovations, follow these tips:

  • Evaluate your vegetation placement. Keep vegetation at least half a metre from the building to help prevent pests from crawling onto your restaurant’s exterior.
  • Avoid thick mulches that would allow pests to burrow.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to educate staff on IPM best practices. You can even ask your pest management professional to conduct a complimentary staff training session.
  • Update your IPM program. Meet with your pest management professional to review the additions and renovations to your restaurant and make changes to your pest management strategy as needed.

It’s essential for foodservice establishments to be proactive about pest management. A single pest sighting can ruin a reputation or close the business for good. By implementing an Integrated Pest Management program before, during and after construction begins, you can help ensure that your property stays pest-free, keeping your diners happy (and those online reviews positive).

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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