A mouse sniffs the ground.

A sanitation schedule to scrub out pests

By Alice Sinia, PhD

Customers expect a sanitary and pleasant dining experience each and every time they visit your restaurant – and that includes trusting that pests will not interfere with their meal or make them sick. Certainly, any pest caught loitering in or around a restaurant can cause damage to one’s hard-earned reputation and can eat into your profits.

While it is obvious that sanitation is key for the success of any restaurant, you may not know that it plays one of the biggest roles in pest management for foodservice establishments. This time of year, pests are constantly searching for one of three things essential for their survival: food, water, and shelter. Taking active steps to sanitize and remove these factors from inside and nearby your restaurant is one of the best ways to stay on top of potential pest issues and prevent them from interfering with your business.

With such a high volume of food preparation and waste disposal happening in close proximity, kitchens can quickly become a hot spot for pest activity. Kitchens, when not properly sanitized, can create breeding grounds where unwanted pests such as flies, cockroaches and rodents will quickly pop up. Because of this, keeping the kitchen clean, tidy and organized should be a top priority for all restaurant employees. Below are some tips and timing for keeping your entire restaurant clean and, ultimately, less attractive to pests looking for a free meal and lodging.

Immediately, as needed

  • Clean up spills, whether they be food or beverages.
  • Repair leaky pipes, sinks, ice machines, soda dispensers, or any other appliance that could be causing standing water to accumulate as soon as possible.
  • Position dumpsters and trash cans as far from the restaurant exterior as possible and ensure the lid is closed at all times to limit pests’ access to potential sources of food and shelter. If you notice that the lid of your dumpster won’t close all the way, you may need to increase the frequency of your waste-management services.
  • Keep areas around the dumpsters clean of spilled garbage, debris, discarded card boxes, and containers.
  • Have dumpsters sit on concrete pad instead of sitting directly on the ground. This will prevent seepage and pooling of fluids under the dumpster, which serves as a major fly breeding source.
  • Rinse glasses immediately after use, even though they are going to be washed more thoroughly later.
  • Rinse and drain vegetable cans immediately after emptying, prior to putting them in the recycling bin. This is one of the leading causes of fruit flies in restaurants.

Between customers

  • Wipe down tables, countertops, and chairs.
  • Don’t overlook the patio; ensure outdoor dining areas are kept clean by clearing dinnerware and flatware, wiping down tables and sweeping any food waste left on the ground.


  • Sweep, vacuum, and mop the floors in all areas (more frequently as needed in high-traffic areas). Ensure that the mop is clean and food particles and debris are not pushed under counters or hard to reach invisible areas or trapped under table and chair leggings.
  • Reduce pest-attracting odours by lining trash cans, keeping lids tightly closed and emptying trash cans to dumpsters.  Fluids from garbage will often seep through the lining to the bottom of the can. If not cleaned properly, this causes odour and conditions for flies to breed, so make sure the bottom of the can is drained and dried prior to re-lining.
  • Monitor and mechanically clean floor drains to keep them from clogging and creating favourable conditions for pests.
  • In the back of the restaurant, ensure counters are cleaned, floors are washed down at least once daily with an organic cleaner.
  • In the bar area, you can help prevent fruit flies by cleaning bar wells.
  • Thoroughly clean all cutting, slicing, and cooking appliances and remove all dirty dishes from the sink prior to closing each night.
  • Use a biodegradable cleaner and drain sinks at the end of the night.


  • Wash down the inside of trash cans to reduce waste buildup and residue.
  • Limit the amount of clutter stored around the kitchen that pests can use as shelter, such as cardboard boxes.
  • In order to properly clean between kitchen equipment, make sure there is enough space between each piece of equipment and between equipment and the wall.
  • Similarly, you should check stockrooms to ensure that non-perishable, bulk foods, and supplies are kept clean and organized, with all products stored off of the floor on shelves, in pest-proof containers and properly closed. Apply the “first in, first out” rule of thumb for stock use to prevent stored product insect pests.

Effective pest management — especially in a busy restaurant — is a team effort, so make sure your staff is involved and well informed, as this is a great defence against unintentionally attracting pests. Many pest management providers offer staff training sessions to help get your entire team on the same page with the basics or can go into more detail on specific pest issues as needed.

A pest-management partner will customize a program based on a restaurant’s unique pest pressures; however, following a regular sanitation schedule to remove pest attractants is an excellent start to keeping your restaurant ahead of the curve when it comes to pest management and meeting your customers’ high expectations when it comes to proper sanitation.

About the author
Alice Sinia, PhD, 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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