Mr. Meek

Security & Safety

Health Inspection: Set yourself up for success best practices for pest management

By Frank Meek, International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC

You work hard to keep your hotel clean and inviting for guests. Pests in a hotel setting can cause bad word-of-mouth and unhappy guests who may not return to your establishment. But beyond the bedroom walls, one critical area of your hotel when it comes to pest management is your restaurant.

A failed health inspection due to a pest sighting in a restaurant or kitchen can be devastating, resulting in bad word-of-mouth or a potential shut down. Let's take a look at which pests are most attracted to your facility, pest hotspots that are cause for concern and how to deter pest entry - all information that will help you to prepare for your next health inspection.

A successful Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program seeks to limit chemical usage by reducing conditions that attract pests. IPM techniques like facility maintenance and proactive sanitation practices can go a long way in restricting pests' access to sources of food, water and shelter. An IPM program also relies on a strong partnership among you, your pest management professional and your employees. To avoid the often costly repercussions of a poor health inspection score, work with your staff and a pest management professional to be prepared for your next health inspection.

Why Pests Are Attracted to Restaurants

Delicious food, smells, warm temperatures - all the same things that we enjoy from a restaurant are also enjoyed by pests. The odor from the presence of food, water and optimal temperatures are what attracts pests to begin with, but it's certainly hard to reduce these conditions in the midst of a busy mealtime at your restaurant.

Four of the most likely pest guests looking to book a stay in hotel restaurants are flies, cockroaches, rodents and stored-product pests.

• Flies - Flies of various types can enter your hotel's kitchen as eggs on incoming food shipments or through open doors or windows. House Flies are the number one transmitters of disease in the world and can carry as many as half a billion microorganisms on the outside of their bodies. Flies that come in contact with food can directly transfer those disease-causing pathogens, including E. coli, Salmonella and Staphylococcus.

• Cockroaches - Cockroaches will eat almost anything including eyelashes, dust, glue and garbage. While cockroaches can survive for up to two months without food, they can only make it about 10 days without water. They often arrive with your shipments, inside corrugated cardboard boxes that contain produce, can goods and other food products. Cockroaches can squeeze through small openings in the building's exterior or access the facility through uncapped drains or unused plumbing lines. Like flies, cockroaches also carry harmful bacteria associated with such illnesses as diarrhea, food poisoning, gastroenteritis and can aggravate asthma conditions in susceptible individuals.

• Rodents - Rodents are particularly disturbing to customers, in part because they're larger than the average "bug." Rats can enter a building through a hole as small as a quarter, and mice can enter through a hole as small as a dime. Rodents can carry diseases or ectoparisites that are transferable to humans, as well as transport bacteria. They can also cause considerable damage to a structure with their constant gnawing.

• Stored-Product Pests - Moths and beetles are examples of stored-product pests that can make their way into your food storage areas. They may arrive on incoming food shipments and often contaminate more product than they eat, sometimes requiring disposal of a large amount of damaged goods. Some species also secrete chemicals that alter the flavor of food products, while others can cause allergic reactions and irritate the human digestive tract if ingested.

Pest Hot Spots

In addition to knowing which pests to be on the lookout for, it's important to know where to look for them. Given that these pests can squeeze in through tiny cracks, make their way into your hotel in cardboard boxes and even arrive amidst your produce, knowing pest hot spots can help you take the necessary preventive steps to ensure that these pests don't make it past your front door.

• Receiving: In addition to the obvious attraction of prepared food, hotel restaurants are prime pest targets because they also offer relatively easy access. Shipments of food and other supplies are coming in constantly, literally giving pests a back door into the establishment. Sometimes pests come in through the receiving doors, but they also "hitchhike" on shipments, so you have to watch those, too.

  • Keep receiving areas clean and uncluttered. This makes the area less attractive to pests. If the areas are well lit, this will make it easier to spot evidence of pests.
  • Be sure all exterior doors form a tight seal when closed. If you can see light from outside when the door is closed, pests can too. Install door sweeps or insulating strips to close any gaps. Rodents can squeeze through an opening the size of a dime, while cockroaches need only a 1/8" slit to get inside.
  • Monitor supplies carefully for signs of pests. Stored-product pests may leave fine webbing in packages of infested dry goods. Look closely in the corners of such packages. Small bite marks could signal rodents, and dead insects are an immediate giveaway.
  • Keep useful tools like black lights (which can help spot rodent urine) and flashlights handy. If you find evidence of infested product, immediately reject the shipment, remove it from the site and notify the vendor.

• Dry Storage: Dry goods are often the origination point for pests that can arrive undetected in a shipment and later blossom into a full-blown infestation in stored ingredients. Here are several ways to keep pests out of your inventory:

  • Be sure all inventory is labeled and dated, and store all goods for rotation on a first in, first out (FIFO) basis. The longer a package is in storage, the more likely it is to become infested.
  • Don't put damaged containers into storage, as it could indicate spoilage or have tiny openings that pests could exploit.
  • Keep all containers closed with airtight lids and store containers at least six inches off the floor and 18 inches away from walls. This significantly decreases the chances of pests accessing their contents.
  • Inspect regularly under and behind storage racks for signs of pests. If evidence of pests is found, act quickly to inspect all stored items, sanitize the storage area and take other countermeasures as recommended by a pest management professional who has inspected the site.

• Kitchens: According to a pest, your kitchen deserves a five-star rating every day. Pests will be satisfied with food debris, accumulations of grease and trash if they are not cleaned up immediately. Follow these tips to keep the kitchen closed to pests:

  • Pests only need a small amount of water to survive in your establishment, so a leaking faucet, dishwasher or ice machine can be enough to provide sustenance. Work with a plumber or appliance professional to quickly repair any leaks.
  • Trash inside your establishment can be a welcome invitation for pests, so you want to keep it outside and dispose of it as soon as possible. While inside, make sure garbage containers are covered and properly lined. Dumpsters and any other outside trash containers should have tight-fitting lids, be cleaned and sanitized regularly, and be located at a distance from your restaurant.
  • Clean the kitchen thoroughly between shifts and at the end of each day. Be sure to sweep or mop under appliances and counters.
  • Consider using an organic cleaner in and around sink drains and on the kitchen floor to eliminate hard to-remove grime. A good cleaner can break down organic debris that attract pests and ensure sanitary equipment.

• Food Preparation Areas: By far the most effective way to prevent pest-borne food contamination - or any other contamination - is to keep food prep areas ultra-clean. Most restaurants' sanitation procedures stipulate intensive cleaning of food prep stations every day (or in some cases, several times per day) to prevent contamination.

  • Be sure your cleaning procedures are rigorous. Pests can make a meal of just about anything - from tiny crumbs under the steam table to grease buildup around the fryer.
  • Watch out for leaky dishwashers, ice machines, sinks or other appliances and repair them immediately. Pests thrive on even a little excess moisture. Likewise, clean up any spills and be on the lookout for other sources of standing water in the kitchen.
  • Clean grease traps regularly and consider applying an organic cleaner on a routine basis to break down any grease accumulation in drains. This debris can be the perfect food source for a drain fly infestation.

Employee Education

By making sanitation and smart pest management practices a part of your culture, you are ensuring that pests will not cause poor reports during an inspection. Cleaning up spills, fixing leaky pipes and inspecting your supplies should be part of a regular routine, as opposed to something you do just to prepare for an inspection. For this reason, it's crucial to involve your employees in the process. They are the ears and eyes of your restaurant and can be the key to early detection of pest activity. Ask your pest management professional to perform a mock inspection of your restaurant and to assess your current pest management program. Use that time to tie your pest prevention plan together with the proper documentation. Your pest management professional can help ensure you have up-to-date service records, corrective action reports, pest activity reports, lists of pesticides used (including how, where and when) and a copy of your pest management operator's license. Review the results with your staff and assign everyone a specific responsibility to address any issues.


During a health inspection, be sure to have evidence of your diligent work. Make sure all of the following pest management documentation is available for the inspector's review:

  • Scope of service document
  • All service reports since the last health inspection
  • Any inspection and corrective action reports
  • Pesticide usage logs
  • Labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS)
  • Pest Control Company licenses and insurance certificates

With preparation and a strong partnership between you and your pest management professional, you can sail through your health inspection feeling confident.

An industry veteran, Frank Meek has been with Orkin since 1986. In 2003, he was named among the future leaders of the pest management industry in Pest Control Technology magazine’s “40 Under 40” ranking. Currently, as the International Technical and Training Director, Mr. Meek provides technical support and training in both sales and service to Orkin's international franchises, helping them grow and develop in their specific markets. As a board-certified entomologist, Mr. Meek teaches Integrated Pest Management principles and can explain how to use all available methodologies to prevent pest infestations in various commercial settings. Mr. Meek can be contacted at 404-888-2898 or fmeek@rollinscorp.com Extended Bio...

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