Pest-proofing Tips for Your Next Health Inspection
By Hope Bowman, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services
Health inspectors can drop into your restaurant at any time, unannounced. Unfortunately, so can pests. And, like health inspectors, both have the power to damage your reputation — many news outlets frequently share poor health inspection scores — or even close down your restaurant due to food safety risks.
If the health inspector showed up tomorrow, would you be ready?
There are a few simple steps you can take to discourage pests and be prepared for your next health inspection, even if the health inspector’s visit is unexpected! Focus on these five key areas:
In the Kitchen
- Clean underneath cabinets, shelving units, cooking appliances, food storage containers, and other hard-to-reach areas to remove food debris and other buildup.
- Dirty sink and floor drains are ideal breeding zones for drain flies and fruit flies. Regularly scrub and disinfect drains and cover them when not in use. Wipe up excess moisture collecting around floor drains.
- Make sure food containers are properly sealed and store them on an elevated surface as far away from the exterior doors as possible. Pests are less likely to smell food odors this way and if they do get inside, they’ll have further to travel before hitting the jackpot.
- Pests can enter through the tiniest cracks and crevices on the exterior of your building. Close any openings with weather-resistant sealant and install door sweeps and weather stripping on doors and windows. Remember, if you can see light coming in from under an entrance, pests can easily slip into your building.
- Trim vegetation back at least three feet from the building exterior to avoid providing pests a bridge to access your building.
- Pests are attracted to the odors emitted by trash and can thrive in decaying organic matter. Position dumpsters as far away from your restaurant as possible and do not allow trash build up in the area surrounding the dumpster. If overflow occurs, it may be time to schedule more frequent trash picks up or arrange for a bigger dumpster.
- It may sound obvious, but it’s important to carefully mop, sweep, or vacuum the dining room floor at the end of the night and ensure the floor is properly dried. This step can make a big difference in keeping pests at bay, and you’d be surprised how frequently restaurants fail to clean this area thoroughly.
- Promptly wipe down and bus all tables when guests are finished.
- Regularly sanitize condiment bottles, salt and pepper shakers, and sugar caddies.
- Monitor ice machines for contamination and sanitize them monthly.
- Store sliced fruit and other drink garnishes in closed containers in the refrigerator.
- The residual sugar left in dirty glasses can be a tasty treat for pests. Rinse glasses immediately after use, even if they’ll be washed more thoroughly later.
- Wipe the bar top after each guest to rid any residuals and sanitize the bar top and bar well every day to help prevent pests like flies.
- Make sure that all beverages (soda, liquor and wine bottles) are properly sealed.
- If your restaurant features an outdoor dining area, clean it just as vigorously as you would the inside. Outdoor seating can provide pests like birds, rodents, and ants easy access to food and water sources, so it’s even more important to clear dirty plates and wipe up crumbs and spills immediately.
- Hose down patios nightly and pressure wash regularly to remove all food and trash. If you have a porch/deck area, don’t neglect the area underneath where food debris can collect.
- Because stinging pests are drawn to bright colors, choose dark or neutral colors for outdoor décor, such as umbrellas and awnings, and stay away from planting brightly colored or fragrant flowers nearby.
There are many ways you can pest-proof your establishment, but focusing on these five areas is a great place to start. Limiting pest access points and reducing the elements that attract pests will help your restaurant stay pest-free and in turn earn a better health inspection score.
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.