Pest prevention

Here are some stats that may changethe way you think about pest control:According to Cornell Hotel and RestaurantAdministration Quarterly, consumersare four times more likely to tellfriends they spotted a cockroach in arestaurant than they are to rave about arestaurant’s cuisine. Furthermore, theWeber Shandwick Safeguarding Reputationsurvey reports that reputation canaccount for as much as 63% of a company’smarket value. Finally, did you knowthe Center for Disease Control reportsthat worldwide, rats and mice spreadmore than 35 diseases, including salmonella,E. coli and dysentery?

The risks posed by pests are clear. Asingle pest infestation could potentiallydamage your reputation, destroy valuableinventory or, in the worst case, close youdown. Yet, as a restaurant owner, yourpest program may not be at the top ofyour list of to-dos. Fortunately, there arethings you can do as part of your regularoperations to help you avoid pest problemsbefore they damage your brand,your business or your bottom line.

Common Pests in Foodservice

The most common pests found in thefoodservice industry include cockroaches,mice, rats, filth flies, small flies and ants.By having a general understanding of thebiology and behavior of these pests, as detailedhere, you can notice the first signsof pest activity and take measures to preventthem from impacting your business.

Cockroaches: The most commonbreed of cockroaches found in foodservicefacilities is the German cockroach.Adult German cockroaches are about½” to ⅝” in length and light brown incolor, and have two dark bands on theshield just behind the head. Germancockroaches like warm, moist areas, sokitchens are a desirable habitat. Thesepests are capable of feeding on a varietyof materials and are prolific breeders. Asingle pair of breeding cockroaches caninfest your facility with more than 1 millionoffspring in less than one year. Theyleave small fecal matter in areas theyinfest, staining surfaces such as wallsor ceilings. Typically nocturnal, Germancockroaches can be seen in daylightwhen first introduced into a facility or ifthe infestation is heavy.Another breed of cockroaches seenin foodservice facilities is the Americancockroach. Although largely an outdoorpest, American cockroaches can findtheir way into restaurants through cracksand crevices, or even drain lines. AdultAmerican cockroaches are about 1⅜” to2⅛” in length and a reddish brown color,with fully developed wings. They areorganic feeders and prefer fermentingfood. Typically, you will find them alongfloors and in areas around drains or closeto the exterior.

Mice: The house mouse is the mostcommonly encountered breed found infoodservice. Adult mice weigh about oneounce and are dark gray in color. Thesepests can enter through cracks as smallas ¼”. Signs that there are mice in yourfacility include gnawing marks on packaging,tracks/footprints, and small pellet-shapedfecal matter about ⅛” long inareas they infest.

Roof rat: Seen mostly in warmer climates,a roof rat is 6” to 8” in length, witha tail longer than its body. These pests arefrequently in high areas and can accessa building through the roof from nearbytrees. Roof rats prefer fruits and vegetablesbut are capable of feeding on a variety of material. They leave fecal matter about½” in length, as well as “rub” marks fromthe oil in their coats. They are very effectiveclimbers, and capable of crawling upand down walls.

Norway rat: The largest of the rat species,adult Norway rats can be 16 ouncesor more and 7” to 9” in length, not includingthe tail. They burrow around buildingsand find their way inside, searchingfor food. Prolific gnawers, they can alsochew their way into facilities as well. Theyleave fecal matter approximately ¾” inlength in areas they frequent, as well as“rub” marks from the oil in their coats.

Filth flies: Filth flies, house flies, blowflies and bottle flies are the most commonspecies of flies that infest food facilities.About ¼” in length, they feed on organicmaterial. They are often attracted tobright light and enter facilities throughopen doors or windows. Once inside, theycan be found anywhere, day or night.

Small flies: Small flies, such as red-eyedfruit flies, drain flies and phorid flies, area common nuisance in food handlingestablishments. Adult fruit flies are about⅛” in length with bright red or dark redeyes. Because they require moisture,these pests live and breed in drains andaround decaying organic material, as wellas fruits and vegetables.

Ants: There are a variety of ant species,ranging from very small (⅛” in length)to large (½”). They are foragers and willfind their way into structures throughsmall openings. Capable of climbing, theymay enter a facility through walls, roofs,cracks and crevices. Ants typically followa trail, and you will see several marchingto areas in search of food.

What You Can Do

Pests typically seek food, shelter and water.Therefore, in order to prevent mostpests, you need to maintain the highestsanitation procedures and quickly addressstructural issues. Following aresuggestions of steps you can take to helpprevent pests from becoming a problemin your facility. Many of these items areprobably already part of your daily routine,but it is important to keep them atthe top of your mind, as well as educateyour staff, so that you can keep pests outof your facility.

Sanitation: Maintaining the higheststandards of sanitation is the No. 1thing you can do to prevent pests—andit’s also good for business. Accordingto Restaurant Hospitality, more than60% of guests rate cleanliness as theirNo. 1 consideration when choosing arestaurant. Here are specific steps youcan take to help keep pests out and keepguests returning:

• Clean under equipment all the wayto the walls to catch any hidden trashand food debris

• Clean hidden areas where water andfood are often overlooked and canaccumulate, such as under the cookline, cracks, crevices, inside counterequipment or around drains

• Vary your cleaning routine in directionand intensity. The same peopleusing the same cleaning method dayafter day can result in missed areasand hidden sanitation issues

• Don’t use high-volume water pressureto clean floors and lower walls, as thiscan push water and food particles intowall voids, under floor tiles, and otherareas where pest activity can flourish.Pressure washers can also damagefloor tiling.

• Ensure that no water is left standing;drain sinks after use and dump outcleaning buckets or mop bucketsafter use.

• Help decrease damp areas by directinggutter and air conditioner drainswell away from the building to preventexcess moisture around the perimeter.

• Clean drains and traps weekly, usingan industrial drain cleaner and a stifflong-handled brush.

• Use a “snake” device in clogged drainsto clean out all gelatinous material.

• Keep stored food in sealed containers.

• Keep garbage cans tightly coveredat all times and remove garbage asneeded throughout the day. Emptyall garbage cans at the end of theday—never leave trash inside thefacility overnight.

• Vacuum or sweep up any food spillageimmediately. Make sure to sweepunder shelving.

• Keep employee areas clean and clear.Make it standard practice for employeesto clean up after themselveswhen eating in exterior break areas.If present, locker rooms should alsobe well-maintained.

• Store all garbage and recycling outsideand as far from the building as possibleto keep flying insects (which willbe attracted to your garbage) awayfrom the entry points of your facility.

Structural: Pests can enter your facilitythrough the smallest gaps and holes,then hide and breed in tiny cracks andcrevices you may not even be aware of.In fact, rodents can enter your facilitythrough holes and cracks as small as ¼”high. Here are some things you can do toprevent pests from entering your facility:

• Look for any openings or holes, bothon the interior and exterior of yourfacility, and seal them to preventpest entry.

• Pave or seal the area beneath andaround dumpsters.

• Install commercial-grade door sweeps.

• Keep all exterior doors and windowsclosed as often as possible.

• Equip all windows with properlyfitting screens.

• During delivery pickups by staff, don’tallow doors to be propped open forextended periods of time.

• Seal structural cracks and voids thatcould allow the accumulation of foodspillage; this includes cracks or breaksin tile.

In addition to all of these actions, workjointly with your pest management provider(PMP). Your PMP can perform athorough inspection of your facility’s interiorand exterior and alert you to sanitationand structural issues that couldcontribute to pest infestation. They mayalso offer an on-site staff education sessionand materials to help keep best pestpractices at the top of your mind. As a fullteam working together, you can protectyour guests, staff and business from theharmful damage done by pests.

Dr. S. John Barcay is the urbanentomologist and senior scientistfor Ecolab Pest Elimination