By Ron Harrison
CLEAN: A good sanitation program prevents pests.
As a restaurant owner, word of mouth can make or break your business. All it takes is one bad review to damage your reputation and your bottom line. So the last thing you want to be associated with is pests. A pest sighting in a restaurant can turn customers off and, if the problem goes untreated, can lead to the health department closing your establishment.
A good sanitation program is one of the most effective methods to prevent an infestation from establishing itself and prevent pests from entering your business. Restaurants are attractive to pests because they offer food, shelter and water, and good sanitation can help eliminate sources of each. While sanitation is critical throughout the building, a systematic program should focus on pest hot spots, or areas that typically attract pests, such as under kitchen appliances, near garbage cans or around areas that accumulate standing water and have optimal temperatures. A pest management professional can help you incorporate the following steps into your regular sanitation program:
- Mind your mess. Stay on top of cleaning, even during busy hours. Clean up all spills immediately, and keep counter tops and floors free of crumbs and food residue. Use organic cleaners to regularly clean drains and grease traps, which are breeding grounds for flies.
At the end of a long and busy shift, thorough cleaning is essential to warding off pests. Vacuum regularly behind and under equipment and in cracks and crevices to clean out any food residue that has accumulated.
- Keep a close watch on storage. Clean out storage areas often and make sure that they, too, are moisture-free. These warm, dark areas attract all types of pests, so all inventory should be checked on a regular basis for pest droppings, live pests, damaged or destroyed product, and other signs of infestation. Rotate all products as they arrive, on a first-in, first-out basis.
- Tackle the trash. Restaurants produce large amounts of waste, which is just another reason for pests to stick around. Inside the building, line all trash cans, making sure they are tightly sealed, and empty them often to prevent any odors from attracting pests.
Keep the exterior of your facility free of debris and trash — if pests can easily find food outside of your restaurant, they're much more likely to live near the building. Regularly pressure wash sidewalks and parking lots to remove any food or drink spills. Move dumpsters as far away from your restaurant as possible, and keep dumpster lids closed at all times. Consider working with your waste management company to rotate and clean dumpsters on a regular basis. Also, keep a close watch on moisture around utility openings in the façade of the building and eliminate any standing water.
An effective sanitation program is only possible with the help of your staff. Your pest management professional can explain the importance of these tips to your employees so they can join in the team effort. Along with a year-round sanitation program, consider conducting a deep cleaning of your entire restaurant once a year to eliminate any hard-to-remove grease stains. Crack down on your sanitation efforts this year to crack down on pests. Your restaurant's reputation is worth the effort!
Ron Harrison, Ph.D., is the director of training at the Orkin Training Center in Atlanta, and a leader in the field of pest management. Contact Harrison at [email protected]  or visit www.orkincommercial.com  for more information.