Inside an empty restaurant with colorful booths.
Unsplash/Miroslav Slapka

Measures restaurants take to limit staff as a result of COVID-19 result in fewer eyes on the lookout for pests.

How COVID-Adjusted Restaurant Layouts Can Create Hideouts for Pests

The result of operational changes bring unintended consequences when it comes to effective pest management.

Customers and employees expect restaurants to do their part in helping keep them safe while they dine, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurateurs have risen to the challenge, deploying new procedures and standards to comply with social distancing and limiting the spread of pathogens. From utilizing touchless takeout options to ensuring spacious dining room seating arrangements, these COVID-19-related changes take many forms.

As an effort to stop the spread of pathogens, restaurateurs offering a dine-in experience are changing the layout to provide adequate spacing to adhere to social distancing. While reducing seating capacity helps address safety concerns, it creates a need for storage to hold the chairs and tables that are temporarily out of commission.

The result of operational changes as such bring unintended consequences when it comes to effective pest management. While helpful in combatting the spread of pathogens, these efforts offer pests new hiding spots. Restaurateurs updating operations should consider these pest risks and tips:

Limited Human Interaction

Many customers are choosing takeout and delivery options to avoid additional human contact. As restaurants receive an increase in carry-out orders, their staff may choose to prop open doors and drive-thru windows for sake of efficiency. Propping doors—whether to the outside or within the restaurant—can also help eliminate touchpoints, especially for guests who chose to dine-in. At the same time, propped doors provide easy access for pests such as flies, mosquitoes and rodents. And once inside, these pests multiply quickly, creating a serious pest problem.

Avoid increased pest risk by keeping doors closed. Instead, place hand sanitizer near entry points to account for pathogens. Fortify your pest management efforts by ensuring doors and windows close properly and consider installing door sweeps to close gaps between the door base and floor. If you’d like to incorporate air flow into your space, keep your windows open, but with a secure screen in place to deter pests.

Additional Storage Areas

Restaurateurs may opt to rearrange the front of house to keep human interaction to a minimum for customers dining in. This new layout creates ample room to adhere to social distancing for a safer dining experience. Removed seating arrangements, however, need to be stored somewhere, and these storage areas provide the perfect climate for pests. These dark, unmonitored spaces with plenty of crevices make cockroaches and rodents feel at home.

Whether storing these items within the restaurant or through a third-party service, monitoring the area for pest activity is of utmost importance. To control pest introductions, store items in rows and allow room for frequent inspection with a flashlight. When involving a storage service, be sure to ask the provider about their pest management standards. Remember to check items from storage before reintroducing them to front of house to avoid spreading contamination.  Always thoroughly clean these items before they are stored as a spill or crumbs may be what attracts pests which then infest. 

Decreased Staff and Staggered Shifts

Measures restaurants take to limit staff as a result of COVID-19 result in fewer eyes on the lookout for pests. Signs of pest activity, like rodent droppings, can easily go overlooked without all hands-on deck. Fewer employees on-site at any one time also reduces foot traffic, leaving restaurants more vulnerable to pests.

Pest management is most effective when it’s a team effort since employees play a crucial role in helping identify a potential pest problem. Incorporate pest activity inspection practices to existing cleaning routines to ensure no sign goes overlooked. Pay close attention to areas that see less foot traffic, like newly formed storage areas, as these unmonitored spaces are particularly vulnerable. And if an employee spots signs of pests, be sure they know how to report their sightings. Proper documentation helps pest management providers address the needs of your business with precision, helping eliminate the problem at its source.

While adjusting restaurant operations, remember what these changes mean for your business’ susceptibility to pest activity. Prioritizing the health of guests and employees is critical, but without careful attention to pest threats, restaurants could unintentionally put customers—and their reputation—at further risk.

Judy Black is the Vice President of Quality Assurance and Technical Services for Rollins, Inc. A board-certified entomologist and PMP Hall of Fame recipient, she has more than 30 years of experience in the pest management field and is an acknowledged leader in the industry. For more information, email or visit

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