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Restaurant Sanitation: How to Put the Freeze on Pests During Winter Months

By Patrick Copps

When diners think about coming to a restaurant in the winter, they probably think about a coat check, hot soup and good coffee. Just like your customers appreciate your establishment's warm benefits, reputation-ruining pests like mice, rats, and other rodents also appreciate the ambiance. Now is the perfect time to reassess your pest prevention techniques to help prevent these pests from giving your diners a "Scare du Jour".

How to get started

Working closely with a pest management professional is an excellent way to form long-term habits and practices that can help you keep your loyal customers and patrons. Your pest management professional might suggest employing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Preventive, effective and long-term, IPM programs focus on sanitation and facility maintenance to reduce the food, water and shelter sources pests seek. By turning to preventive measures first, IPM also reduces the need for chemical use.

Once you incorporate an IPM program, work with your pest management professional to answer these questions:

How do pests gain access to my restaurant?

Pests will take any opportunity to enter your restaurant and enjoy the three elements they need for survival: food, water and shelter. The only "tip" you might receive that suggests their existence: droppings, gnaw marks and rub marks at floor and wall junctions or in the stock room.

While some pests may use an open front door to come inside, loading dock areas and back doors also can allow pests entry since they often remain open for long periods of time when shipments arrive. Pests can even enter via your incoming deliveries. One of the less obvious entry points into your building is one of the most difficult to spot - small cracks in your building's exterior or around utility penetrations. Mice only need openings as big as a dime to enter, while rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter.

How can I keep pests out?

Prevention is the best way to keep pests from making an appearance at your restaurant. Whether your establishment is a stand-alone structure or part of a larger building, it's important to know where pests could enter.

Front Entrance: Consider installing an automatic door closer at all entrances to keep frequently used doors closed when not in use. Install door sweeps and seals around doors to ensure a tight fit between the door and the threshold or frame so pests can't squeeze through.

plants-building Landscaping: The closer flowers, shrubs or trees grow to your building, the more likely pests may use your landscaping as a hiding spot. Trim back landscaping at least two feet from the exterior wall. Adding a gravel strip around the perimeter of the building also discourages rodents by creating an open area where they likely won't travel.

cracks in walls Utility Penetrations/Cracks: Inspect your building, especially exterior walls and around utility access points - including those on the roof - for any unscreened openings or exposed cracks or crevices. Seal any openings with weather-resistant sealant. Carry a pencil when monitoring for gaps and fill any holes bigger than the diameter of a pencil. Use stainless-steel or copper mesh, where appropriate with the sealant so rodents cannot gnaw through.

Loading Docks: In high-traffic entrances, consider incorporating additional barriers to pest entry. Install plastic strip doors or a double-door system to prevent pests from coming inside. Also, be sure to inspect pallets and cartons for gnaw marks or droppings before placing deliveries in the stock room.

Winter pest infestations can be hazardous and bothersome, but they can be prevented. Warm up to these tips to help prevent pests now and throughout the year.

Patrick Copps is Technical Services Manager for Orkin's Pacific Division. A Board Certified Entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Mr. Copps has more than 35 years experience in the industry. For more information, email Mr. Copps at or visit

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