Unwanted Guests: How to keep pests out in the cold

By Alice Sinia, PhD

When it comes to the right recipe for pest protection in your restaurant, so much depends on your staff’s knowledge of the pesky critters. For the most effective pest management program, your employees need to understand their role, including how they can be vigilant and observant. The best pest management comes down to identification and prevention. Keeping an eye out for signs of pests and what they’re attracted to helps prevent problems before they occur.

To get started, schedule a meeting with your staff to review the best practices discussed here and invite your pest management professional to facilitate the training. Your pest management provider can teach employees what pest signs to look for, their basic biology and best sanitation and maintenance practices to keep pests at bay. They can also educate your staff on Integrated Pest Management (IPM), an environmentally responsible approach to pest control. So when training your staff, keep in mind just a few simple ingredients to create a recipe for pest protection.


If your staff sees a pest problem, they need to report it immediately — it’s that simple. To make that happen, it’s important for you to establish a pest-sighting communication protocol for all employees to follow to help report any pest sightings. Create a simple, easily-accessible pest sighting form or log easily that employees can use to report what, when, where and how many pests were seen. If possible, collect samples for identification and confirmation. A piece of scotch tape or a container can be used for collecting the samples. It’s valuable information for your pest management provider who can use it to assess and create a solution to resolve the issue. A little information on the front end can help improve your plan in the long-run.

To provide that information to your pest solution provider, it’s important to educate your staff about what to look for. Share these telltale signs of some common pests with your employees so they know what to look for:

  • Stored product pests: Though it’s tough to spot webbing, larvae and live adults (some of which can look like grain) on product packaging and damaged packaging are red flags. Other warning signs include trails of flour, dust or fragments of insect parts.
  • Flies: If you see black spots on the walls, it can be a sign that flies are present. If you see larvae (maggots), especially around drains and in other damp or wet areas, it’s time to act fast. Flies reproduce quickly, so small problems can escalate rapidly.
  • Cockroaches: They are often found behind or under equipment, in wall voids or around any other protected areas. Keep an eye out for brown egg cases, which look like tiny miniature briefcases and indicate cockroaches are present.
  • Rodents: These pests leave visible droppings, so watch out for tiny pellets (blackish and the size of a grain of rice). Rodents are constantly gnawing, so if you see any products with gnaw marks, that’s a good indication that rodents may be present. Be aware that even sudden fast movements or sounds could be an indication of rodents.

Be sure to regularly inspect pest hot spots. They tend to visit hidden, protected places like equipment voids, equipment footing, wall voids (through access panels) and behind and under appliances; food preparation and dining areas; employee locker and break rooms; storage areas and closets; laundry areas; loading areas where shipments are coming in and going out and garbage rooms. Monitoring these spots now can save time and money in the future.


Stringent sanitation and maintenance programs will also help eliminate conditions that attract pests in the first place. Here are a few preventive procedures that you should delegate to your staff:

  • Keep floors clean. This might sound simple, but make sure employees clean vigorously and clean up all spills and crumbs, as this is a vital first step in pest prevention. Floors should be vacuumed or mopped daily, especially in the kitchen. Eliminate organic build-up between tiles and keep floors dry.
  • Take care of trash. It’s no secret that pests are attracted to the odours coming from trash receptacles. Be sure not to let trash sit out for a long period of time. Trash bins should be emptied daily and washed once per week. Outdoors, make sure garbage cans are lidded and at least six metres from the building entrances. Power wash garbage rooms regularly and ensure there is proper drainage to prevent moisture or pooling in the room, which can breed small flies.
  • Maintain a spotless kitchen. A clean kitchen is a must for any restaurant, and vigorous cleaning schedules also help fend off pest activity. Consider using a microbial cleaner that can break down buildup without the use of harsh chemicals to clean floors, drains and the underside of equipment.
  • Store products properly. Do not store products (both food and non-food products) directly on floor. All items should be stored on shelves at least twenty centimetres from the floor for proper housekeeping and pest monitoring. When retrieving stored products for use, apply the FIFO rule: first in, first out. This will prevent products from going stale and breeding pests.
  • Maintain landscaping. Keep vegetation around your restaurant trimmed and be sure branches don’t touch the building exterior. Overgrown vegetation can provide safe harbour for pests, and landscaping or trees touching the building can provide easy access for pests looking to crawl inside.  
  • Inspect incoming food shipments. Be sure your staff examine boxes entering the facility, as pests can burrow into packaging, making them hard to eliminate once inside your facilities. Keep an eye out for signs of insect or rodent activity on incoming shipments and reject or quarantine items that may be contaminated.

Just like perfecting a recipe takes work, so does pest management — but the reward is worth the effort! Training your staff to be proactive and implementing a strong pest management process are the key ingredients for long-term success.

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 [email protected] or visit www.orkincanada.com.