The Three Biggest Pest Threats for Restaurants

Not taking a proactive stance on pest control can co be costly.
Not taking a proactive stance on pest control can co be costly. Image Used with Permission

How an integrated pest management program can keep your team, guests, and budget healthy

As the summer heat continues, so does the risk for additional pest pressures. Flies, cockroaches, and rodents are three of the dirtiest pests restaurants should be concerned about—all three are capable of transmitting dangerous diseases—and are certainly not pests you want as a part of your diners’ experience. One pest sighting in a restaurant could mean the difference between a 5-star review and an onslaught of negative feedback, so it’s important to take the necessary measures to prevent them.


Although small, flies are among the filthiest of all pests and carry diseases, such as typhoid, cholera, and salmonella. Their typical feeding habits consist of garbage, feces, carcasses, and food waste, so flies spend much of their time in unsanitary areas. When they make a quick stop on your plate of food or utensils, they deposit thousands of bacteria from their recent meal in just seconds. This transmission of bacteria can result in food poisoning, diarrhea, and bloodstream infections.

Surprisingly, 61 percent of patrons in a survey released by Orkin reported that they would continue to eat a meal after a fly lands on it. Even though diners may not be aware of the threat flies pose, they are likely to associate the food they ate at your restaurant with any potential illness they may have following their meal. Flies breed incredibly rapidly, so it’s important to be proactive in your treatment and maintain a thorough pest management program.


Cockroaches are one of the most highly adaptive and resilient pests, having been around for thousands of years. Unfortunately, their adaptability means they are resistant to some pest control treatments, particularly the over-the-counter kind. With over 70 types of cockroaches in the United States, it’s likely you will find them in your restaurant at some point. Restaurants provide everything cockroaches need to thrive with an abundant supply of food, water, and shelter.

In addition to being highly adaptive, they are also excellent at hiding in dark cracks and crevices. When you spot one crawling across the floor during the day, it can be a sign that there may be many more hiding behind the scenes. If cockroaches reach the dining room area, they can contaminate food and spread diseases to your patrons, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Keeping these pests out in the first place is the best way to ensure your diners don’t see them.


The presence of rats and mice in your restaurant can be a sign of unsanitary conditions and can lead to a number of issues including food contamination, poor food safety audit scores, and serious reputation damage. Rodents are known carriers of deadly neurological and respiratory diseases like lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus and Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Ticks, mites, and fleas can feed on infected rodents and transmit diseases like pox, plague, and typhus indirectly to humans—putting not only employees in your restaurant at risk, but also customers.

Since rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter and mice a hole the size of a dime, it is not difficult for them to make themselves at home in your kitchen. Once inside, they have no reason to leave as restaurants have an abundance of food, water, and warm shelter available. Rodents also reproduce rapidly, so what seems like a small problem can quickly become a full-blown infestation.

Integrated Pest Management

So what can you do to ensure these pests don’t become regulars at your restaurant? Implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program is a proactive approach that focuses on eliminating conducive conditions in an ongoing cycle of assessing the issues, implementing corrective actions, and monitoring for improvements. Involving your employees in this process is critical to its success. Here are some important things for your staff to focus on as part of an IPM program:

Keep Things Clean

  • Regularly wipe down countertops and tables, and clean up any spills immediately.
  • Repair any leaky sinks, vending machines, or ice machines.
  •  Sweep, mop, and vacuum floors. Use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter to remove dust and debris from small cracks and crevices.
  • Control smells. Reduce the smells that attract pests by lining trashcans, keeping lids tightly shut, and taking trash to the dumpster frequently. Wash down trashcans and dumpsters regularly, and locate dumpsters as far away from the building as possible.
  • Monitor and sanitize floor drains on a regular basis to keep them from clogging.

Shut Pests Out

  • Regularly inspect the exterior of your building for cracks and crevices, as well as gaps that can develop around utility pipes. Seal any openings with weather resistant sealant.
  • Maintain vegetation so it does not touching the building.
  • Install door sweeps and weather stripping to close gaps around doors and windows. Use screens on windows and doors.
  • Keep food in tightly sealed containers in the kitchen on shelves above the floor.

Involve Your Staff

  • Educate your staff on pest threats, attractants, and ways to help prevent them.
  • Ask your pest management provider to facilitate a training session with your staff.
  • Encourage employees to report any pest sightings immediately.

Work closely with your pest control provider to implement an integrated pest management program and determine potential issues before they turn into an infestation. Regularly following the tips above will help your restaurant keep diners in and pests out. 

Zia Siddiqi

Dr. Zia Siddiqi is Director of Quality Systems for Orkin. A board certified entomologist with more than 35 years in the industry, Dr. Siddiqi is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management.

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