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Out with the Old and in with the New

Trading Pest-Attracting Habits for Pest Prevention Success

By Patrick T. Copps, MS, BCE

Technical Services Manager, Orkin, LLC

The emergence of spring typically means increased business for restaurants with more patrons enjoying dinner outings and customers breaking in patio dining. But spring is also known for another busy time – pest season. Restaurateurs might want to consider paying close attention to pest control and what they can do to prepare for increased pest pressure.

In the sensitive environment of foodservice, it’s essential to have a knowledgeable pest management professional on your side, but there are other factors than can contribute to pest control. Employees can be a huge asset to pest prevention, but they can also – unknowingly – damage your business. Starting from the moment they walk in the door, your staff should serve as a strong partner in pest management. They are the eyes and ears of your restaurant and can look out for more than just tips. Monitoring for pests and conditions that lead to infestations is one requirement that should be in your employees’ job description.

Ask your pest management provider to help get everyone on board with your program. Introduce employees to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and how it works. IPM is a proactive approach to pest control that focuses on prevention versus remediation. By implementing environmentally friendly and proactive measures to reduce pest pressure, such as sanitation and facility maintenance, you can reduce the amount of chemical applications needed to control pest populations. Your pest management professional can further explain each employee’s role in preventing pests, from asking your cooks to maintain a clean and uncluttered kitchen to having waiters regularly take out the trash.

Take a look at the following ways your staff can prevent, rather than promote, pest activity in your restaurant:

Explore Employee Entrances

When your staff arrives for their shift, ask employees to stay away from an open-door policy. Pests, such as cockroaches and flies, can slip through entrances just as easily as employees; so make sure to keep doors closed, especially during breaks or when taking trash to the dumpster. If back entrances frequently remain open for shipments, consider installing a screen door as a protective barrier. Inspect all door sweeps and replace any that are old and weathered to close gaps that might allow pest entry.

Lock-up Locker Areas

If your restaurant provides employee lockers or an area for staff to store personal items, request that those areas remain free of food and drink. Snacks and leftovers provide the perfect meal for pests – not to mention lockers, which offer a dark, warm area where pests can thrive without disturbance. Even odors can attract insects and rodents, so arrange frequent clean outs of employee areas.

Accept Only Pest-Free Shipments

If you’re not available to greet vendors, your employees should be aware of the right pest prevention procedures before accepting goods. Infestations not only start when a pest seeks out your restaurant in search of food, water and shelter, your shipments can also deliver pests right to your doorstep. Inspect all incoming shipments for signs of pests, including gnaw marks or damaged product. Remove all shipments from their cardboard packaging – a cockroach favorite – and keep any dry goods in tightly-sealed plastic bins or containers. Also, store supplies on stainless steel, open-backed shelving, a minimum of six inches off the floor and 18 inches from walls. This will remove any pest hiding spots. To keep products fresh, ask employees to practice first in, first out (FIFO) stocking, so older products are placed toward the front and used first.

Keep up the Cleaning

Once you open for business, customer traffic, food-filled tables and trash accumulation begin to pile up. Instruct your staff to stay on top of cleaning to help reduce pest attractants. Clear plates in a timely fashion and thoroughly wipe down tables and chairs between customers. Sweep and mop throughout the day to remove crumbs and debris. Remove garbage regularly – especially if it contains food waste – by placing sealed plastic trash bags in dumpsters located as far from your building as possible to keep pests at a distance. In addition to cleaning, ask employees to monitor for signs of pests and conditions that attract pests. Leaking soda fountains, for example, can provide pests with the sustenance they need to survive in your restaurant, so quickly fix any appliances in need of repair.

Closing up Shop

At the end of the day, regroup with your staff. Did you take the time to incorporate pest prevention into your daily routine? Be sure that your staff is “pest educated” and encouraged to immediately report any sightings like droppings or insects. It might take some practice, but after a few days your staff will be operating in pest prevention mode. Plus, staying proactive about pests means fewer chemical treatments, which means a healthier environment for employees and customers. You can continue to keep pest management on the forefront by discussing tips for pest prevention in staff meetings or including pest control reminders on staff bulletin boards. Choosing a preventive path and getting employees involved is just what you need to create a successful pest management program this spring.

Source: Independent Restaurant

Patrick Copps is Technical Services Manager for Orkin’s Pacific Division. A Board Certified Entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Mr. Copps has more than 35 years experience in the industry. For more information, email Mr. Copps at or visit


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