By Hope Bowman, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services
As a professional in the restaurant industry, every day is a busy one. You work hard to create an outstanding customer experience while also managing the budget, making hiring decisions and maintaining the public reputation of your establishment. There’s a lot at stake – both financially and socially – which is why it often makes sense to outsource a service like integrated pest management (IPM) to an experienced third-party provider. But with so much on the line, how do you know which provider will do the best job?
Like any other business decision, you should think carefully before choosing an IPM provider. Screening potential providers upfront could be the difference between a seamless experience and an unnecessarily complicated one – and micro-managing a poor provider is the last thing you want to add to your to-do list. The balancing act of leading a foodservice establishment can easily be tipped in the wrong direction when you add one more headache to your existing responsibilities.
Fortunately, a reputable IPM provider can make life easier for you and your team. To ensure you’re getting the best bug eliminators for your buck, here are the questions you should ask before making a decision:
Certain pest management challenges are unique to the industry and require extensive understanding to be handled effectively. Whether it’s keeping flies away from front-of-house or preventing rodents from slipping through cracks in stock rooms, it’s essential to eliminate potential issues and maintain healthy prep and dining areas. Foodservice is highly regulated in ways that differ from other commercial settings, so make sure your provider knows the requirements and can deliver the right solutions.
Technical knowledge is a must-have for pest management specialists in the foodservice industry. Ask potential providers what kind of training their specialists receive. Are they up-to-date on the latest processes and procedures? Do they have industry-specific certifications? And beyond technical know-how, are they trained on how to handle customer interactions? Ensuring that the specialists are knowledgeable, friendly and professional is important for the development of a long-term relationship between your businesses.
Pest management is an investment. And when you invest in services for your restaurant, you of course want to ensure you’re reducing risk and receiving the greatest potential upside. Just like any good investment, the best kind of IPM provider is one that has demonstrably performed well over time. Past success and reputation are indicators of quality. Consider hiring a provider with decades of pest management experience, ideally within the restaurant industry, so you can be confident in their time-tested service.
Examine how the provider has serviced industry peers. Have they performed well with clients of similar size and scope? What kinds of solutions have they implemented for others? A provider should be able to offer testimonials from past customers, which can give you context and reassurance when making a final decision. Knowing the experiences of similar establishments helps you to ensure a more predictable and favorable outcome for your restaurant.
Proper service documentation is crucial in restaurant industry pest management, so ask providers how they plan to provide this to you, as well as what information will be included. Ideally, documentation will include findings and recommendations; materials used during service; types of pests found and/or treated; notes on structural or sanitation deficiencies and how to eliminate them; and reference materials for you to find additional information. It’s also crucial to ensure that you are receiving the necessary documentation for third-party audits from local or state organizations. Be aware of the regulations in your area and ensure your IPM provider can supply the needed information.
No IPM provider should get away with mediocre service. If the job isn’t satisfactory, then it isn’t worth a lost line item in your budget. Be sure to vet potential providers for a service guarantee that promises customer satisfaction and, in case of sub-par results, a refund at your request. A provider should not ask you to pay until pests are eliminated to your preferred extent. It is also helpful to check for convenient lines of communication (i.e. readily available phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) so you may contact the provider at any time if you have questions or need to report an issue.
When it comes to choosing the right IPM service, don’t let your provider be a pest itself. Following the procedures outlined above can help make sure you get the assistance you need, when and how you need it. Once you’ve established a trusting relationship with a quality provider, the pains of pest management can be eliminated so you can get back to focusing on what matters most – creating a quality dining experience for every customer who walks through your doors.
Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and Board-Certified Entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.
Originally featured at Total Food Service.