The last thing an operator wants a customer to see in the restaurant is a fly or cockroach. To help prevent this unpalatable event, they must choose a pest control provider that can find the cause of any infestation, develop a plan of action and help thwart future pests from entering the premises.
That means choosing a provider that offers Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, a multiphase approach that offers a longer term solution than simply using a chemical repellent.
When choosing a pest management provider, there are some key features to look for and some things to avoid. “If the first thing the pest management provider does is come in through the door with big spray cans, that’s not the company you want to have,” says Pat Copps, technical services manager for Orkin, LLC.
The operator should examine the provider’s credentials and identify whether they are a member of the National Pest Management Association. The restaurant owner should also ask how the technicians are trained and what kind of service support the company offers.
Orkin’s IPM system consists of three stages: Assess, Implement and Monitor, or AIM. The “Assess” step entails inspecting the premises to determine which conditions might be conducive to attracting pests. The inspection includes ascertaining which pests are – or in the future could be – the problem and how they entered the restaurant.
“Our commercial pest specialists look for where the deep harborages are,” says Copps, who is also an entomologist. “Instead of doing something prescriptive or a standard procedure, we find it best to tailor service to that particular location.”
The second step, “Implement,” includes recommending changes to sanitation and other techniques or treatments to help reduce pest hot spots. For example, if there are rodents, the technician might recommend installing door sweeps. If there are flies, the technician might recommend a ventilation system that creates positive air pressure to push air outside when the door opens.
“You want somebody who is going to be comprehensive and will take a good look at your property,” Copps says. “They should not simply ask, ‘How many square feet is it?’ to determine your price.’”
The provider also should be familiar with the laws that govern food safety, which include the model food code set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the state and local laws, and the county health department and how it enforces the rules. For example, Copps says, if a pest management provider recommends installing a fly light, the placement of that type of equipment is important. There might be a rule that the light cannot be located in a food preparation area.
Ron Harrison, director of technical services for Orkin, says an effective pest management provider will suggest tactics to help prevent or mitigate pest problems. For instance, when a food delivery arrives, the staff should unpack the items and discard the boxes. They should also scrub all the shelves and wash the floor mats.
The exterior of the restaurant is an important factor, too. Harrison advises owners to dispose of old mulch instead of adding a new layer of mulch when they update the landscaping. “People keep adding more mulch on top, so now there are three or four inches of organic matter churning with pests,” he says. “Those outdoor pests can then find their way indoors.”
The final step, “Monitoring,” includes Orkin technicians performing ongoing inspections to make sure the customized pest management plan is working. The technician might find new pests or a new source of pests and recommend treatments. This ongoing communication is important, Harrison says, but some operators might not want to spend time with ongoing maintenance, because they are busy with the day-to-day routine of the restaurant business.
“They might say, ‘Okay, the pest problem is taken care of; I’ll just sign off,'” he says. “They’re busy trying to turn over tables, and we understand that, but we also don’t want more issues to arise.”
The old way of treating the issue was to use repellents and harsh methods such as a total release fogger or “bug bomb.” Harrison, who is also an entomologist, says those methods are not as common these days because there is data suggesting they make the problem worse. “It pushes pests further into cracks and crevices,” he notes. “It’s not a long-term fix.”
Pest management is a long-term process – one that costs more than a bug bomb, but can help prevent the need for more costly treatments later. Harrison says the concept is analogous to people using preventive care to remain healthy, instead of waiting until they get sick and then seeking a remedy.
“We want to come in and say, 'Let’s put this program in place in the restaurant so that you can help make sightings of an ant or cockroach rare,'” he says. “That’s a proactive approach.”