Cleaning to stop restaurant pests belongs at the top of every restaurant managers' list. Keeping eating establishments free of vermin is an never ending battle that requires diligence and "a high standard of sanitation," according to entomologist Jennifer Brumfield. Get sloppy about cleaning protocols and you may see serious problems with flies, roaches, rodents and other creepy crawlies.
Don't let bad habits make your establishment vulnerable. Follow these protocols and start cleaning to stop restaurant pests.
Common Restaurant Pests and Their Threats
Vermin are a year-round threat to restaurants, but winter is especially troublesome as pests move indoors to find food, water and warmth. Three of the most common and dangerous pests are:
- Flies: Flies may be small but their impact can be enormous. These insects are downright filthy, feeding on garbage, feces, carcasses and food waste. They can carry diseases like typhoid, cholera and salmonella and can transmit bacteria that causes food poisoning diarrhea and blood infections.
- Cockroaches: Pest control company Orkin, reports that 97% of people would not eat food that a cockroach crawled on. That number seems low! Cockroaches are highly adaptive, resilient and revolting. They don't bite or sting but can spread at least 33 kinds of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella along with parasitic worms and other human pathogens. Their saliva, urine and feces contain allergens that can trigger reactions and asthma attacks.
- Rodents: Mice and rats present a danger to your diners and staff. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention names 11 diseases they transmit including deadly neurological and respiratory diseases like lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome.
These disgusting critters can get into your restaurant through cracks and crevices in walls and floors. They may also be carried in on food and supply shipments. Or they can take the direct route and crawl, scurry or fly right in through open doors and windows. Once in, pests can eat, shelter and multiply quickly unless cleaning protocols are strong.
Good Habits to Keep Pests Out
Following good habits can keep flies, roaches and rodents out from the start. Inspect your building from the outside for structural issues like holes and cracks and repair them immediately. Don't forget to check around utility pipes as well. Vermin can hide and flourish in these exclusions and eventually find their way in. Keep doors and windows closed and don't allow staff to prop them open for deliveries. Install door sweeps and weather stripping to close any visible gaps.
Treat garbage like garbage. Always use a plastic liner in cans and bins and keep them fitted with a tight lid. Empty daily or more as needed. Wash the inside and outside of cans and bins regularly to prevent debris build up. Keep your dumpster as far from your establishment as possible and make sure the lid shuts tightly. Don't try to make do with a too-small dumpster or you may have overflow. Clean the dumpster area regularly.
Storing food in cardboard boxes or loosely closed bags is an invitation to vermin. Instead opt for tightly sealed containers designed for food storage. Keep containers at least six inches off of the ground and 12 inches away from walls. This space allows for easier cleaning and inspection of the storage area.
Best Cleaning Protocols for Pest Control: Focus on Floors
Thorough, proper cleaning will eliminate the food debris and standing water that makes restaurants so attractive to flies, roaches and rodents from the start. While the entire establishment, like food prep surfaces, bar tops and soda machines, dining tables and between the banquet cushions, requires attention, your restaurant floors need particular care.
That's because restaurant floors are inherently tricky to clean. They must endure heavy foot traffic and rolling loads. They are continuously splattered with food and coated with greasy films. Cleaning to control pests means getting under and around heavy, bulky equipment and checking grease traps and floor drains.
You might be temped to use a broom, bucket and mop to get this job done. Don't. These old-fashioned tools are inefficient, hard to use and cannot fully remove the soils and debris that attract vermin. They also pose a cross contamination risk if staff uses the same tools in the kitchen, restroom and dining area.
Mops can even make floors dirtier. Take tile and grout floors for instance. Their durability makes the combination a common choice for commercial kitchens. But grout lines sit below tile and basically act like crevices. The material's porous nature allows it to soak up and hold on to soils. Mopping further pulls food particles and other kitchen dirt into the grout, encouraging bacteria growth and attracting pests.
Try a dispense-and-vac instead. This technology works 60 times better at removing soil and contaminants than mopping. Kitchen staff simply applies cleaning solution to the floor and brushes into grout lines. Then the dispense-and-vac vacuums up all the liquids and soils, leaving the floor clean, dry and unattractive to pests.
The technology is advanced yet easy to use. It also is nimble enough to get around bulky equipment. Find out more here and start cleaning to stop restaurant pests today.
Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.