Best Practices to Keep Pests From Invading Your Restaurant This Summer

Summer has arrived, bringing with it sunshine, short sleeves, and smiling vacationers visiting restaurants from coast to coast. However, warm weather is also a beacon for some unwanted guests – pests.

What are the pests that restaurants are most likely to deal with in the summer months? And what can be done to keep them out? 

Summer's Top Pest Pressures

Anecdotally, most restaurateurs know what pests they encounter more frequently when summer hits. But data may tell a different story. The experts at Rentokil Steritech, one of North America's leading commercial pest control companies, analyzed data from the services it conducted in 2017 and 2018 at restaurants to determine the top pest issues each month for restaurants.

From May to September, pest pressures are heavy and consistent. In fact, the top four spots remain unchanged every month.

  • Rodents

Rodents are the number one pest every month for restaurants, even in the summer months. Don't expect to see issues with rats and mice fall off in 2019, either. Cities from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles are reporting sharp spikes in rat activity. Blame climate change; the lack of lengthy freezes is preventing winter die-off, adding to the numbers. 

  • Filth flies

Filth flies include species such as house flies, little house flies, bottle, and flesh flies. Filth flies are implicated in the mechanical transmission of disease, transmitting pathogens to the surfaces on which they land. Flies are attracted to odors and will travel great distances to get to them. Your restaurant's cooking – or your dumpsters – could be drawing flies in from anything within a 4-mile radius of your location.

  • Small flies

Small flies include fruit flies, drain flies, and moth flies. Small fly problems can stem from any number of sources in your facility, from drains to over-ripened produce to the bar area to bathroom leaks. 

  • Cockroaches

Whether its German cockroaches or large cockroaches that make their way inside from outdoors, nothing will send guests running faster than seeing a cockroach while they are eating. 

Other pests peek into the top five for each of the summer months, include ants, night-flying insects such as moths, and occasional invaders, which include crickets, earwigs, and silverfish.

Practical Steps to Keep Pests out this Summer

While it's always a good idea to have a contracted pest management partner to help you stay one step ahead of pest activity with a customized plan, there are practical actions that restaurant management and staff can take to drastically reduce the likelihood that pests will be attracted to your restaurant. 

Many of these actions may seem simple, but take a look around a restaurant and you will likely see a number of infractions against these standards. 

  1. Close doors when not in use. Many pests get into businesses in the same way that people do – through open doors. Busy restaurant kitchens can get hot and employees may prop open doors to keep air circulating or while taking a break outside. It only takes a second for rodents, flies, large cockroaches, night-flying insects, and other pests to get inside. If doors must remain open for circulation, install screened doors and ensure that screens remain intact at all times. Remind employees about the closed-door policy or use signs to help enforce the policy. 
  2. Install door sweeps on exterior doors. Pests can take advantage of the smallest cracks and gaps. A ½-inch gap can allow a mouse or rat to sneak in – and insect pests can squeeze in through even smaller spaces. Door sweeps are an economical way to close the gap.
  3. Caulk and seal cracks, crevices, or other openings. The smallest cracks and crevices can let pests can gain access to a structure. Ants, cockroaches, rodents and other pests can creep in through these small structural flaws. Other often overlooked areas are the holes and gaps created by pipes, cables, and wire penetrations into buildings. These areas can be sealed with pest-proof material (flashing, hardware cloth, etc.) to keep pests from crawling in. 
  4. Repair damaged grout and tiles. Floors in high-trafficked kitchens take abuse and it can show. But cracked or damaged tile or missing grout can become a collection point for small bits of food waste and organic debris, a fertile breeding ground for small flies and great food source for other pests. 
  5. Regularly clean and service drains. Both floor drains and sink drains can build up organic slime that is a perfect breeding ground for small flies. Have a regular drain cleaning service performed. Drains with P-traps should also be serviced regularly, as traps can become dry and emit odors that are attractive to large cockroach pests. 
  6. Install dishwasher splash guards to keep walls from becoming saturated with moisture. Wet walls can cause small fly breeding sites to develop; the high humidity generated by the machine also creates conditions ideal for many pests to thrive. One note of caution: be sure the splash guards are properly sealed to the wall to prevent moisture from accumulating behind them and creating their own pest-attracting conditions.
  7. Pay special attention to soda stations/lines. Sugar-rich soda stations are often a hotbed of small fly activity because restaurants overlook proper cleaning and maintenance. Soda drip trays should be cleaned every day, nozzles cleaned daily, and soda lines should be flushed regularly to prevent the accumulation of syrups and sugars that will attract small flies. 
  8. Practice First In, First Out rotation. This general sanitation practice is good for preventing everything from rodent infestation to stored product insect infestation, as well as small fly activity. Product stuffed onto the back of shelves that doesn't move out for long periods of time is subject to unnoticed pest infestation (not to mention product loss that takes a bite out of your wallet). Decaying, molding, or over-ripened produce is another small-fly attractant that can be overlooked. By using the oldest product first, staff members can ensure that pests don't have a chance to gain a foothold.
  9. Designate a central location(s) for storage of employee personal belongings. Employees have pest problems at home, too, and sometimes, they can unknowingly transport them to work. By creating a central location for personal item storage that is removed from food prep and food storage areas, you limit the area where pest problems could be introduced. This area, whether lockers or cubbies, should be subject to mandatory cleanouts on a monthly basis. A restaurant's pest management provider should also have access to this area to conduct regular service. 
  10. Vegetation-free zone. While landscaping may help your property look attractive, it can also be attractive to pests. Create an 18 to 24-inch vegetation-free barrier around any structure to minimize the likelihood that pests will use vegetation as a highway to get to the building and then capitalize on gaps and cracks to find their way inside. This includes keeping trees trimmed back so that they do not touch the building. If you use mulch, be sure it doesn't contact the building, as it can be a primary harborage spot for pests. Ideally, you should use 
  11. Mind the rules of trash and dumpsters. Trash and dumpsters are a major pest attractant – flies, ants, rodents, stinging insects, and even birds can become an issue around trash areas. So it's best to keep these rules in mind:
    • In indoor trash cans, always use liners to prevent the build-up of pest-attracting organic debris inside of cans. 
    • Fit exterior trash cans with self-closing lids and locate them several feet away from doors and entry points to prevent pests from getting inside.
    • Keep all trash areas neat and tidy.
    • Ensure that dumpsters have functioning, closing lids.
    • All trash placed into dumpsters should be in bags. 
    • Have dumpsters cleaned or replaced regularly.
    • Wash dumpster pads monthly.

Summer On Without the Pests

By taking these practical steps and working in partnership with a pest management provider, restauranteurs can keep pests from creating a disturbance in their restaurants this summer. 

For more practical pest prevention tips and best practices,  click here.