Follow these tips to monitor your supply chain and incoming products to help spot pests before they enter your restaurant.

As a restaurateur, you know that pests are bad for business. This is why you do everything in your power to keep pests out of your space. You follow proper sanitation and cleaning practices, ask your employees to report any signs of pest activity and regularly work with your pest management provider. Unfortunately, your efforts in and around your restaurant can be reversed if your supply chain partners aren’t implementing the same measures.

In fact, distribution facilities are at constant risk for pest infestations. But in good news, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) guidelines now bring distribution facilities up to almost the same safety standards as food processors. But constant diligence is still required as your product makes its way to your kitchen.

The food and beverage products that your restaurant relies on often have a long journey before arriving to your place of business. And as they travel, these shipments are exposed to pests throughout the supply chain, including the multiple delivery trucks utilized. In addition, the packaging for products can be attractive to pests and hide them from sight. Packaging functions as shelter, and pests can make their way into packaging more easily than you would think. Rodents can chew through plastics, and cockroaches are known to be great hitchhikers in the cardboard boxes.

The potential impact makes working with your supply chain on pest management imperative. Before you work with your supply chain to ensure your partners enforce effective pest management, be sure you know which pests can cause a threat. Some of the most common pests that can affect your business through your supply chain are:

Cockroaches: These pests can easily hitch a ride to your restaurant in a product shipment.  They can also be tough to get rid of since different species require different approaches, which is why identification and prevention are key before it’s too late.

Ants: Any place with food particles and residue beckons these pests. Keep in mind that where you see a few ants, more ants are probably nearby because these social insects live in massive colonies. Just a few crumbs from a spill or exposed food from damaged packaging can help feed the masses.

Flies: Like ants, flies don’t need much to survive. Plus, these warm-weather pests bring an added health risk, moving quickly and landing often, potentially depositing bacteria and other harmful materials each time they touch a surface.

Birds: Bird droppings and shed feathers pose major threats when it comes to food safety. Birds are often found at food and beverage processing facilities, exposing food and beverage shipments to these health risks before they reach your restaurant. Feces on product packaging is the main issue associated with birds.

Stored Product Pests: Different dry goods attract different stored product pests, such as beetles and moths. While these are not always a potential health risk, they can damage or destroy product, which will cost you. If you are bringing in or storing dry goods, be on the lookout for insects such as beetles and moths inside those items.

While your restaurant follows stringent cleaning, sanitation and pest management procedures, you cannot guarantee the stops along your supply chain do, too. From suppliers to distributors, the numerous touchpoints food and beverage products encounter before they enter your restaurant increase their risk of picking up hitchhiking pests along the way. And if pests find their way into your business, they can damage your reputation and bottom line, regardless of where they came from.

That’s why it’s important to closely monitor and inspect every shipment that enters your door. Check out these tips to monitor your supply chain and incoming products to help spot pests before they enter your restaurant:

Start the conversation with your suppliers and distributors. Confirm your suppliers and distributors follow effective pest management protocols and request to see their audit scores to ensure they have a good track record in pest management.

Inspect deliveries before accepting shipments. Check all shipments for visual signs of pest activity, including gnaw or bite marks, droppings, damaged or leaking containers, webbing from spiders and pests themselves, whether dead or alive.

Isolate any infested shipments and products immediately. If possible, refuse delivery of shipments. Avoid the further spread of pests by calling your pest management provider to check the infested shipment within one business day and create a plan of action to help stop further pest activity.

Remove shipment packaging and store with care. Keep food and beverage products neatly stored above the floor in tightly sealed containers. Be sure to inspect storage areas regularly to continue monitoring for pests.

Prioritize using your oldest products first. Arrange your food and beverage storage so your employees use the oldest products first. This creates constant movement that will help prevent pests from making a home in old products.

Train your employees. Educate them on what to look for and who to talk to when they observe a problem, so you have every set of eyes in your restaurant on the lookout out for pests. Be sure to regulate a consistent reporting system so issues don’t go ignored.

Maintain open lines of communication with your partners. Remember that you, your suppliers and your distributors are a team in pest management. Consider asking your pest management provider to facilitate a meeting between all suppliers to share best practices.

Lastly, remember the threat of pests doesn’t end once shipments reach your location. Don’t leave products vulnerable, sitting unchecked in a dark storage room. Instead, practice these tips and work with your pest management provider to create a protocol that fits the unique needs of your restaurant. And if you notice any signs of pest activity, don’t hesitate to call on your provider to perform a comprehensive inspection and help identify ways to mitigate a pest problem.

Frank Meek is a Technical Services Manager for Rollins. As a board-certified entomologist and 30-year industry veteran, he is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, email or visit

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