All it takes is for one cockroach to sour a restaurant’s reputation forever. 

Unfortunately, no matter how clean a restaurant is, pests like rats, mice, and cockroaches can still invade your business. In many cases, these pests can enter just by hitching a ride inside a cardboard box or entering through a crack or crevice in your building’s exterior. 

Depending on your leasing situation, you may be responsible for dealing with these pests on your own if you don’t act quickly. 

In this restaurant pest control guide, we’ll take you through all the steps you need to take to protect your business from pests, including understanding the health risks, identifying common pests, and using professional and DIY pest control methods to deal with an infestation.  

Health Risks of Pests for Restaurants

Common restaurant pests like rats, mice, and cockroaches are known to spread disease by directly contacting food or leaving behind droppings that can cause dangerous symptoms ranging from asthma-type reactions to nausea and vomiting. In more extreme cases, these pests can also carry around serious diseases, exposing customers to salmonella and E. coli.

Additional risks associated with pests include structural damage, health department violations, and negatively impacted customer perception.  

Common Restaurant Pests and Their Behavior

  • Cockroaches: These nocturnal insects are fast runners, excellent climbers, and can squeeze through tiny openings. They usually contaminate food with their droppings and leave behind an unpleasant odor. Cockroaches are known to be particularly sneaky and are experts at hiding, so you may not actually see one unless there is a large infestation.
  • Rats and Mice: Highly adaptable rodents will gnaw on hard surfaces to control their continuously growing teeth, often contaminating food directly or via their droppings. Rats and mice are also known to be quite stealthy, but you may notice their droppings before you ever see one. Rodent droppings are typically shiny and black, measuring at about 1⁄2 inch long. 
  • Flies: Flies are attracted to food odors and unsanitary areas. They regurgitate digestive enzymes onto food to liquefy it, then suck it up, transmitting dangerous pathogens.
  • Ants: Scouts leave chemical trails to guide others to food sources, quickly leading to ant infestations
  • Stored Product Pests (e.g., beetles, weevils): These tricky little pests infest dry food goods and grains, laying eggs directly in food that lead to contamination.

Pest Control Methods for Restaurants

There are several professional and DIY pest control methods that may be effective at dealing with pests, which are specifically geared toward restaurants. 

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Approach

One of the most popular approaches to pest management in restaurants is the use of Integrated Pest Management or IPM. IPM is a science-based, sustainable approach to pest control that uses a combination of pest biology, environmental data, and technology to manage pests. 

IPM is considered a safer approach to pest management compared to more traditional methods. For example, IPM prioritizes sanitation practices and mechanical controls before resorting to biological or chemical controls to provide longer-lasting pest management. This is especially important, considering the vulnerability of restaurants and food to chemical controls. 

Chemical vs. Non-Chemical Pest Control Methods

IPM opens up a critical discussion on the utility of chemical methods for pest control. 

Chemical methods include the use of things like pesticides and insecticides, while non-chemical methods include IPM and the use of more natural solutions, like diatomaceous earth and homemade traps. 

In many cases, non-chemical or biological methods may be effective. Still, more extreme cases, such as getting rid of cockroaches, will require insecticides–especially if an infestation has gotten particularly bad. In such cases, discussing your options with a professional exterminator will be advisable. 

Implementing Effective Pest Control Solutions

Whether you are dealing with an active infestation in your restaurant or are simply looking to take preventative measures, be sure to choose the pest control solution that makes the most sense for your business needs. 

Due to stringent restaurant pest control requirements, your best bet is to seek the help of a professional to treat any new or existing infestations. 

Pest Prevention Tips for Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Whether your restaurant offers indoor or outdoor dining (or both), there are steps you can take to prevent pests from interfering with your guests’ experience. 

  1. Professional Pest Control: Establish a partnership with a reputable pest control company specializing in integrated pest management. Companies like Pest Czar feature monthly maintenance programs that can spray the exterior of your business with an organic compound that keeps pests away and provide regular inspections at no extra cost. 
  2. Regular Inspections: Conduct frequent inspections of the entire premises, including storage areas, kitchens, dining spaces, and restrooms, to identify and address any signs of pest activity. Hire a professional company to assist with inspections. 
  3. Sanitation: Maintain a high level of cleanliness by regularly cleaning and disinfecting all areas, including floors, counters, equipment, and drains. Ensure that food debris and spills are promptly cleaned up.
  4. Proper Food Storage: Store food items in airtight containers and keep them off the floor. Rotate stock to use older items first, and organize storage areas to prevent clutter that pests can hide in.
  5. Trash Management: Dispose of trash properly in sealed bins with lids, and ensure that garbage is regularly removed from the premises. Regularly clean trash cans and dumpster areas to minimize attractants.
  6. Sealing Entry Points: Seal cracks, gaps, and openings in walls, ceilings, floors, and around pipes to prevent pests from entering the building.
  7. Screening: Install screens on windows and doors to prevent flies, mosquitoes, and other flying insects from entering the restaurant.
  8. Pest-Resistant Landscaping: Maintain landscaping around the restaurant to minimize areas where pests can hide or breed. Trim bushes, eliminate standing water, and keep vegetation away from the building.
  9. Exterior Maintenance: Regularly inspect the exterior of the building for signs of damage or potential entry points for pests. Repair any holes or gaps in the building’s structure.
  10. Educate Staff: Train employees on proper hygiene practices, such as washing hands regularly, wearing clean uniforms, and reporting any signs of pests immediately.
  11. Storage and Waste Disposal: Store waste properly and remove it promptly. Clean garbage areas regularly to prevent pest attraction.
  12. Air Circulation and Humidity Control: Ensure proper ventilation to minimize excess humidity, which can attract pests. Use dehumidifiers if necessary.

Restaurant pest control is an essential part of the culinary industry and one that requires further education and training for staff. In the meantime, be sure to partner with a pest control company you trust to ensure your restaurant is safe from pests. 


How can a restaurant be designed to resist pests?

To prevent pests from invading your restaurant, the most important thing you can do is keep a strict cleaning schedule. This includes the front and back of the house, any outdoor dining areas and dumpsters. Getting in the habit of washing and drying all dishes and sweeping and mopping the floors each night will make pests less likely to enter your restaurant, as they are typically only in search of food and water sources. It may also be a good idea to seal any cracks and crevices in the building using caulk and be sure not to leave any doors open for the best chance of keeping pests out. 

What are some effective cleaning and sanitation practices to prevent pests?

Making it a point to clean the entire kitchen before closing each night is crucial in keeping pests out of your restaurant. Food should also be properly stored, and dirty dishes should be washed at the end of each night. Using a sanitizing spray to wipe down tables and countertops can also be effective in preventing pests and killing germs. 

What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and how can it help restaurants?

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a sustainable method of pest management that uses pest biology, environmental data, and technology to get rid of pests. IPM can help keep pests out of restaurants by determining what kind of pest is present and developing a unique treatment plan to eliminate the pests while keeping the food and customers safe. 


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