Sponsored by Western Pest Services
For most restaurant operators, the first line of defense against pests is partnering with the right pest control company. But that can be as challenging as batting mosquitoes on a lake.
Running a Google search produces page after page of local and national companies to scroll through. The National Pest Management Association alone counts 6,000 pest control company members.
Choosing the right pest control technician can be difficult, but it’s important to make the right choice, says Lisa Weidmaier, a training and technical manager with Western Pest Services based in Parsippany, New Jersey.
“The most successful partnerships are when there is a good, longstanding relationship with the technician and the restaurant,” Weidmaier says. “The pest control company becomes a team member rather than just a vendor.”
To get to a good working relationship, Weidmaier offers the following advice when it comes to selecting a pest control provider.
A provider should know the foodservice industry. Pest control listings will include everything from small mom-and-pop operations to large regional or national chains. Find out how much work they have done with restaurants and whether they know the particular pest pressures restaurants experience, Weidmaier advises.
For example, an experienced pest control company knows not to service a restaurant at noon and understands when an establishment is most likely to be busy with customers, she says.
A smart provider asks the appropriate questions. The right technician will take the time to ask questions in order to thoroughly understand the needs of an individual restaurant — hours of operation, cooking, cleaning and storage practices, structural challenges, location issues, etc.
Unsuspecting employees or customers, product deliveries or even a linen service can sometimes bring in pests. The right technician will help operators to think outside the box, Weidmaier says.
“What’s the process when I have linens dropped off? Should that be through a separate door, kept in a separate room?” she asks. “A technician can give you a perspective you may not have realized because you are so into the details of running your restaurant.”
A good technician is not afraid of bugs — or you. A good technician will not shy away from frank and critical discussions to improve pest control, Weidmaier says. And an operator should trust the technician to give the correct advice.
“When you have a good partnership, the technician will say ‘I can do everything I need to, but if you leave every window and door open, you’re going to have flies,’ or ‘If you don’t clean up under the bar, you’re going to have fruit flies,’” she says. “It’s a two-way street.”
Compare apples to apples. Once you've narrowed down the choices, operators need to be sure they are comparing services between pest companies equally, Weidmaier says.
For example, two companies might both offer services for $50 a month, but what does that entail? If there is a problem, will one company charge extra for every additional visit a technician makes, or does a monthly charge include repeat visits to resolve a problem?
“Dig down enough to make sure you are comparing the same things and don’t let price be the No. 1 reason to choose a company,” she says. “You get what you pay for.”
Weidmaier suggest the following questions to further vet a pest control vendor beyond just the cost of services:
How long has the company been in the business? That will tell you how well they know your community and area. A longer established business may have more resources available for restaurant operations.
What is the company's employee tenure? Does a company have a problem retaining experienced employees? A high turnover may mean fewer trained technicians.
How does the company schedule or assign technicians? Look for a company which assigns the same technicians to the same locations rather than one which rotates them among clients. When the same tech serves the same location, the tech, operator and employees get to know each other and can establish a good working relationship, Weidmaier says. The technician will know the restaurant’s challenging areas and can better stay on top of recurring issues.
What makes a pest control provider different from all the other competitors? Look for answers that address tenure, training and experience.