Pest Mess: Tips for keeping your restaurant safe this season

By Alice Sinia

Outside may be buzzing with pest activity right now, but when temperatures begin to dip, restaurants will become even more enticing to pests seeking shelter from the cold — along with food and water — this fall. And if pests find safe harbour inside, they can breed and quickly become an infestation, posing health risks, threatening customer satisfaction, inspection scores, your reputation and, of course, your bottom line.

That means it’s time to start planning some necessary prevention strategies and maintenance in advance of the season change. Exclusion tactics, such as identifying and repairing structural deficiencies, are your first line of defence in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan to help protect your restaurant from pest invaders. Not only do they help keep pests out, but exclusion tactics are also beneficial in insulating your restaurant from cold weather and preventing heat loss. It’s a win-win approach for a cozy, pest-free restaurant this fall.

Here are five steps to help keep pests like ants, cockroaches, rodents and occasional invaders from entering restaurants and becoming a major headache.

Inspect the Exterior

Pests need very little space to get inside. Mice only need an opening the size of a dime, and smaller insects can squeeze through literally the smallest of cracks. Start by calling your pest management provider to thoroughly inspect the building’s exterior and structure. Hiring a professional helps ensure that no detail is overlooked.

Identify Entrances

Your pest management provider will also help you identify hot spots and access points where your restaurant is most vulnerable to pests. These could include:

  • Cracks in walls, door frames and other junctions.
  • Holes in walls, ceilings and the roof.
  • Gaps around utility lines.
  • Unscreened vents or floor drains.
  • Tears in window or door screens.
  • Damaged or missing weather stripping or door sweeps.
  • Tree branches and shrubs touching exterior walls.

Once you know the areas at risk of infiltration, establish a plan of action, schedule repairs right away and set maintenance protocols moving forward.

Implement Strategies

Using the appropriate measures is essential to effective pest management. A provider should customize your program, but here are several things to consider to help seal pests out:

  • Repair or replace all torn or missing window and door screens, floor drains and vent covers.
  • Replace old or missing weather stripping and door sweeps. Designed to help create an impenetrable barrier against pests like rats and cockroaches, door sweeps close gaps under doors with thousands of dense nylon bristles.
  • Caulk cracks, crevices or gaps in your structure with permanent, water-resistant sealant.
  • Create a primary line of defense around the building by placing baited rodent bait stations around the exterior of the building. This will intercept and control rodents before they can enter indoors.
  • Ensure there is positive air flow and consider installing air curtains, which are an effective method and create a wall of air that flying insects have difficulty crossing.

Involve Staff

Your pest management provider isn’t on-site 24/7, nor can you handle everything alone. Include all employees in pest management by setting clear expectations — if you see something, say something. Any structural deficiencies, water leaks or pest activity should be reported to management immediately so that they can contact your provider or schedule the appropriate repairs. Staff should also be encouraged to keep exterior doors closed as often as possible. For example, doors should not be propped open while accepting shipments and garbage should be properly disposed of in provided receptacles. Small things like this go a long way in effective pest management. Your provider may also provide free staff training on specific issues.

Improve Your Program

IPM isn’t a one-time event. Even though taking the necessary measures now will help keep you protected into the fall, pest management is an ongoing process. Over time, you’ll be able to predict trends which helps you continuously improve the strength of your program.

If pests are the last thing you want on the menu, a little exclusion work and preventive measures can go a long way in improving energy efficiency and sealing out pests looking for a way in once fall arrives.

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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