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Restaurant Sanitation: Clean Up Your Act: Incorporate Daily Sanitation Techniques to Discourage Pests

By Ron Harrison

Restaurants all have different ways for handling cleanliness. Larger establishments might have an entire staff dedicated to bussing tables and wiping countertops, but restaurants with fewer employees might just do what they can during a down time. The fact is, customers don't take sanitation lightly. An unsanitary environment will attract another clientele altogether - pests.

Sanitation plays a major role in a successful restaurant's operations. In addition to helping maintain customers, a clean establishment can also help keep health inspection scores high. By creating a sanitary environment for your customers, you can also prevent pests from stopping by without reservations.

Pests are a huge threat to your customers' and staff's health. Cockroaches can spread a number of bacteria, which can cause illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Their skins and droppings have also been linked to respiratory problems like asthma. Rodents carry a number of diseases with them, including the deadly Hantavirus, which mice and rats transmit through urine, droppings, or saliva.

The best approach to pest management is one that prevents pests in the first place. Sanitation is one of the easiest and most effective ways to control these unwanted guests. Incorporating a few extra steps into your daily routine can make all the difference.

The easiest way for pests to enter a restaurant is simply hitching a ride, either on personal belongings or in supplier shipments.

  • Inspect all shipments thoroughly before storing them away. Look for damaged product that includes gnaw marks, droppings or live or dead pests.
  • Break down any cardboard boxes from shipments. Pests use these boxes as harborage and cockroaches can feed on the glue that holds the cardboard together.

Pest will also come looking for food, water and shelter, so do your best to restrict their access to those survival needs.

  • Wipe down all tables and chairs at the end of each day to remove any residue that might have collected during the dining hours.
  • Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Make sure to thoroughly clean any cooking appliances. Cockroaches, ants and rodents will find a way inside for a late night snack.
  • Remove any standing water and clean up spills immediately. Mice only need a small amount of water to survive inside your establishment.
  • Sweep, mop and vacuum floors. Use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter to remove dust and debris from small cracks and crevices where cockroaches hide. This pest isn't picky about meals and can even feed on dust.

Finally, discourage pests from hanging around the outside of your restaurant to prevent them from entering through an open door.

    Trach Pile
  • Line all trash cans and make sure lids are tightly sealed on outdoor garbage. Empty trash throughout the day, and more frequently if it contains food waste.
  • Don't sit any trash outside your building - rather, take garbage to the dumpster, which should be located as far from the restaurant as possible to keep pests at a distance.
  • Pay attention to the outside of your establishment and pick up any trash that might have accumulated in the parking lot. Wash down parking areas and sidewalks at the end of the day to remove food residue attractive to pests.

By taking a proactive approach to pest management, with sanitation leading the charge, you can feel confident that pests won't pay a visit.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, Ph.D., is Director of Technical Services for Orkin, Inc. and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. Contact Dr. Harrison at or visit

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