Restaurant operators dedicated to food sustainability, energy conservation and environmentally friendly business practices also can take a green approach when it comes to pest control.
When there is a pest problem, a pest control company can implement solutions involving baits and traps, says Jennifer Brumfield, an entomologist for Parsippany, N.J.-based Western Pest Services. In instances where treatments are called for, there are compounds approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use around food and dining establishments.
Treatments are usually a part of an integrated pest management program, Brumfield says. However, the most effective pest control method, particularly if a restaurant operator is attempting to make the environmental impact minimal, is to maintain a high standard of sanitation. Keeping a restaurant clean is the best way to combat the three things pests need to invade and thrive in an environment — food, water and shelter. Operators need to focus on trying to eliminate all three, but will have to eliminate at least one of those areas to prevent pests.
“The restaurant has to be able to recognize what they are doing to attract and harbor pests,” she says. “Getting rid of at least one of the three reasons pests are there (food, shelter, water) will help to eliminate and prevent them.”
Here are some of her tips to tackle those three areas that invite pest problems:
Make sure nooks and crannies are cleaned thoroughly and floors are swept and vacuumed. Food dropped on the floor should be picked up before it gets kicked under tables or the prep line or into corners where it often winds up being forgotten.
When servers are doing their side work at the end of the day or a shift, make certain they are not just replacing and refilling condiments, but cleaning out condiment trays as well. Use checklists and sign off sheets to track side work tasks.
“Hold everyone accountable to make sure they are doing side work appropriately,” Brumfield says.
Examine areas where water is not flowing through but pooling, a situation likely to occur in older buildings with uneven floors where water can collect in corners or depressions. Examine and repair tiles or grout as water can accumulate under loose tiles and degrade the grout.
Ensure that ice machines are draining properly and liquor wells are cleaned out and spills are sponged up. And pay close attention to floor drains.
“Drains are a big one,” Brumfield says. “People will clean and mop and do everything but have the drains cleaned. They don’t see the sludge that is in them. Most often this issue does not get addressed.”
Establish a drain cleaning program for employees or hire a company to clean out the drains on a regular basis.
One of the most prominent ways for pests to get into a restaurant is through deliveries. Often the invaders are hiding in the cardboard used to cart in produce and liquor.
“Cardboard holds moisture — it’s warm and a little soft,” Brumfield says. “[Pests] like to squeeze into it. They feel safe.”
Remove everything from the boxes and store the contents on shelves and then dispose of the cardboard, she advises. Also inspect every delivery and carefully go through the items before accepting the delivery to make sure it is pest free.
If there are any dry floor drains, have them inspected. Roaches can access a restaurant through unused floor drains.
Make sure the restaurant building itself is structurally sound, with no cracks, gaps or entry points around the building allowing bugs and rodents to gain entry. Caulk cracks or install wire mesh to close off entry points for pests. Install door sweeps and screens and do not allow employees to prop doors open.
With a high standard of sanitation and building maintenance, restaurant operators can have a proactive relationship with a pest control partner, rather than a reactive one, Brumfield says.
“When we have a restaurant that is practicing perfect sanitation and maintenance of the building, then we can provide the service of monitoring and giving recommendations to prevent a pest occurrence,” she says.