A warm, fragrant restaurant kitchen is an inviting shelter for pests. In addition to sealing cracks, keeping doors closed, wiping spills and keeping foliage away from the perimeter of your facility, make sure you’re taking some additional steps to avoid enticing unwanted guests. Clean your food preparation and storage areas regularly. Keep close watch on your inventory – to include rotating damaged or expired stock often and storing fresh items in sealed containers in your pantry. Bag your food waste tightly (and minimize it wherever possible so there is less to discard) and ensure dumpsters are emptied often and closed securely at all other times.
When the exterior of your facility is clean and tidy, it doesn’t just appeal to guests who are being more vigilant about cleanliness – it also deters pests looking to enter the building. Colder weather is coming and pests will be looking for warm places to hide. Ensure that any trees or shrubs are cut back a few feet from the sides of the building, seal any cracks in your concrete, and remove any stagnant water near your facility as it can help pests breed. Have your staff check the restaurant’s entrances and exterior walls regularly for signs that pests are gathering or looking for entry points.
As the weather cools, rodents will be seeking shelter in warmer environments like your kitchen and storage areas. If you have put off regular maintenance and repairs in recent months, now is a good time to check your facility for cracks and crevices where pests might enter and to trim any vegetation surrounding your facility that could provide a shelter for them. If you find potential entry points, seal them with caulk or weather foam – as opposed to a less-permanent or half-baked solution that might alert a health inspector to a problem.
As you open your doors to guests this spring, the windows and doors helping you ventilate your facility could also make it easier for pests to find their way inside. Check screens on windows and doors for holes and other damage, and if you have storage areas or outbuildings that haven’t been used as frequently during the pandemic, check for rodent activity. Inspect the exterior of your facility for cracks and trim back any brush that could harbor pests close to your walls. Ensure any sticky spills aren’t left for long periods, particularly if you have staff and guests circulating regularly between indoor and outdoor seating areas. Finally, since insects can hitch a ride into your kitchen on contaminated food, be sure to check your food deliveries for pest activity upon arrival and to store them promptly afterwards.
This has been a year when restaurants have had to do more with less – and it’s understandable if overdue maintenance and repairs have had to take a backseat to other concerns. But the colder weather means that your restaurant could quickly become a warm haven for pests (and a problem for business) if you don’t take precautions to discourage them from entering and multiplying. Be alert to potential signs of a problem – such as gnaw marks or feces – and have an exterminator in as soon as possible if you discover them. Seal off cracks and crevices around and inside your facility and regularly check hidden areas where pests might lurk, such as around pipes and under or around appliances.
As quarantines have altered people’s comings and goings, as well as the distribution of garbage and recycling in some places, pests are coming out of hiding. In Seattle, rats have been seen wrestling in public parks. A recent National Geographic report said that in New York City, rats are normally able to live out their lives within 150 feet of where they were born because of the plentiful food sources around them, but that’s no longer the case. They are boldly looking for food indoors, where they can not only spread disease but also chew and damage electrical wiring. In your restaurant, take extra care to minimize entry points for rats, mice and other pests right now. Avoid keeping doors open, even though it helps your staff avoid touching those surfaces. Seal any gaps under doors, since even a quarter-inch gap can give a mouse an entry point into your facility. Ensure trash containers – indoors and out – are sealed and cleaned regularly.
The universe of Internet of Things devices used to monitor restaurant processes and alert operators to potential problems continues to grow – and even pest activity can be tracked by a network of sensors. The pest control company Rentokil says the top pests posing problems for restaurants and commercial kitchens are rodents, cockroaches, flies and stored-product pests that infest and contaminate food. Since some of these pests can make themselves scarce when your team isn’t around, using technology to track their activity can give you a clearer picture of the types of pests you’re dealing with, how your pest activity varies throughout the year and what emerging risks your business might face if you don’t take preventive action. That data then helps automate your reports related to pests, along with the steps you must take to stay in compliance as a foodservice organization.
As winter approaches, your restaurant becomes an even more appealing haven for pests. If pests are a recurring or ongoing problem in your facility, there is (of course) technology that can help. Internet of Things devices and cloud computing have extended to the pest management business, and for operations that need it, the technology can provide 24-hour-a-day monitoring. A restaurant can use sensors within its facility to identify current and emerging risks, collect data that can help minimize the risk of infestations, manage service records across multiple operations and automate reporting required for compliance purposes.
Staying on top of the maintenance of your facility and equipment can help you avoid accidents and costly repairs or replacements. But where should you focus your energy? In a recent NextRestaurants report, Warren Wu of UpKeep, a software firm that helps businesses manage their maintenance needs, identified four top priorities for preventive maintenance in restaurants: First, clean and sanitize your refrigerators each week. Wu advises that during those sessions, staff should check areas that are prone to failure such as door hinges and gaskets. Second, clean burners, grates and flattops daily to minimize grease buildup, which can cause fires and attract pests. Third, on a weekly or monthly basis, scan your facility for a pest problem or conditions that might cause one – like spills that aren’t promptly cleaned or food being stored improperly. Finally, if you serve beer, clean your keg lines no less frequently than every six weeks to prevent mold, bacteria and other residue from building up.
Have pests become a problem for you this summer? Take extra care with garbage disposal to avoid becoming a haven for them (or encouraging them to make a longer-term home with you once the weather starts cooling). Statefoodsafety.com suggests reminding staff to avoid leaving garbage in places or for long periods where pests can access them easily. That means taking full trash bags to the dumpster immediately — not leaving them in and around your establishment — and emptying bins before they overflow. Use strong plastic liners, clean bins regularly so there are no spills or crumbs left to attract pests, and keep garbage bin and dumpster lids closed securely when not disposing of garbage.