Just because ghost kitchens eliminate some of the costly aspects of running a restaurant doesn’t mean they don’t experience the threat of pests.

In keeping up with the recent innovations of the foodservice industry, you may be familiar with the latest trend: ghost kitchens. These facilities came into the scene long before COVID-19, but the pressures of the pandemic, and resulting cultural changes, launched this new take on commercial kitchens into the public eye.

Ghost kitchens are commercial kitchens designed for the preparation of delivery-only meals. Like traditional commercial kitchens, ghost kitchens contain all the necessary equipment necessary for a restaurant to prepare meals. Ghost kitchens do not, however, have dining areas. With no physical location for walk-in customers and diners, ghost kitchens rely on delivery services, rather than staff, to serve their meals.

Ghost kitchens allow restaurateurs to circumvent some of the costs associated with owning and operating a traditional restaurant. Without space for dining-in, they eliminate the need for front-of-house staff and customer-facing décor, adding more to their bottom line. By limiting the restaurant space to just the kitchen, the ghost kitchen model cuts real estate costs significantly.

Just because ghost kitchens eliminate some of the costly aspects of running a restaurant doesn’t mean they don’t experience the threat of pests. In fact, some of the beneficial qualities of ghost kitchens—such as their limited space and staff—function as conducive conditions to pests. Knowing which pests pose a health threat can help your employees keep an eye out for an introduction.

Flies have the potential to carry more than 100 different pathogens, including salmonella, tuberculosis, typhoid and cholera. They can also quickly spread pathogens that cause food borne illnesses. When designing the kitchen make sure you leave room for an Insect Light Trap or two.

Rodents can also spread diseases and taint food with waste, fur, and saliva. In fact, mice can contaminate about 10 times the amount of food they eat. The CDC links some species of rodents to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a disease fatal in about 36 percent of all reported U.S. cases. When designing your kitchen, make sure you leave room for your pest management company to place traps near potential entry points.

Ants also are capable of transmitting food borne disease organisms since they are known to contaminate food with disease organisms such as E. coli, Shigella and Salmonella. When designing your kitchen, make sure you address the exterior landscaping so that ants aren’t attracted into your building.

The presence of these pests can put your employees and customers at risk. A small pest problem can multiply rapidly, too. An effective way to reduce the potential of these pests is to eliminate the attractants that entice them. Elements that make ghost kitchens a pest hot spot include:

Waste Management: In short, a buildup of waste attracts pests. The emphasis on delivery preparation adds pressure to ghost kitchen employees to maintain a sense of speed, which leaves room to overlook taking care of trash frequently. Less eyes on the situation due to the limited number of staff operating the kitchen means that everyone needs to take ownership of trash removal, by either doing it themselves or assigning the task. Less space means more frequent trips to the dumpster.

To combat pest problems, practice proper waste management. Don’t let trash go unnoticed, and instead, throw it out in a timely manner. Maintain a designated location for waste, and cover trash and recycling containers with tightly sealed lids.

Food Storage: Since ghost kitchens typically serve a limited menu, they often require bulk products and utilization of pre-prepared foods. Storing these products in these tight quarters provides unsupervised nooks for pests to take shelter.

Rotating these stored goods regularly can help minimize the threat of pests. Pre-prepared food sitting out in large quantities, while useful in boosting profitability by creating easy add-ons like avocado slices, offer an open buffet for pests. Rather than leave these products out, consider refrigerating or covering them while not in immediate use.

Site Location: The flexibility ghost kitchens offer can also function as a pest attractant. While they can make for better rent, they’re capable of luring nearby pests with the promise of food, water and shelter. And without the high-foot traffic dine-in spaces supply, pests are more likely to remain active.

Ensuring all entry points are sealed off is critical to keep ghost kitchens pest free. Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible to prevent pest entry.

When keeping up with the trends, be sure to remember the basics, like proper pest management. Ghost kitchens, while unconventional, are not exempt from pest pressures. Just because you don’t have guests dining in our picking up food, you must strive for the same level of pest activity, which should be zero.

Knowing what to expect and how to take preventative measures can help your new commercial kitchen venture offer exceptional delivery without concern of a pest-related disaster.

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 JBlack@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.

Expert Takes, Feature, Food Safety