The Key to Keeping Customers in and Pests out

Focusing on sanitation programs for food service facilities

The Key to Keeping Customers in and Pests out

Nearly one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne diseases annually, so maintaining a thorough sanitation program is critical. Sanitation is one of the basic building blocks of a strong food safety program, as well as a strong pest management program, but it is also one that sees frequent slip-ups. Missing one routine cleaning may seem harmless, but in today’s consumer climate, it can come at a cost.

Failing a health inspection or having patrons report pest sightings could result in losing valuable customers and reputation damage that is difficult to repair. In a recent survey released by Orkin, 91 percent of respondents reported they would never return to a restaurant if they saw a pest on their plate of food, and 56 percent of patrons reported they are likely to take their complaints to the internet. Luckily, implementing sanitation as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan can help circumvent potential issues.

Primary Food Source

With plenty of food, water, and shelter available, restaurants and other food service facilities can entice pests like flies, cockroaches, and rodents. These pests also happen to be the primary sources of food contamination in restaurants. In the colder fall and winter months, rats and mice pose a particular threat as they can become regulars in your establishment. Rodents will eat most anything on or off the menu; they even chew on electrical wires, which can spark fires. Beyond the gross factor, rodents can carry numerous diseases and can contaminate surfaces they touch. In fact, rodents can contaminate 10 times the amount of food they consume through contact with their urine, feces, or hair.

Program Implementation

The first step in implementing a sanitation program and helping to prevent pest problems in your facility is to enlist your staff. Your pest management provider should provide a sanitation audit, conduct staff training, and point out potential issues and pest hot spots. However, sanitation and pest management require ongoing work, and you’ll achieve the best results when your entire staff is on board to help. Staffs are often the first to notice potential issues or signs of existing problems, so it’s important to inform them on what to look for and what action to take should they spot a pest issue.


One obvious place to monitor is the kitchen, which is always bustling with activity. This area of your facility provides ample opportunity for pests to make themselves at home, so keeping it clean should be a top priority. Ensure your staff thoroughly cleans all cooking appliances and removes all dirty dishes from the sink prior to closing each night. In order to properly clean between kitchen equipment, make sure there is at least 18 inches of space between each piece of equipment and 30 inches between equipment and the wall.

All standing water and spills should be mopped up immediately, and once complete, the mops and cleaning equipment should be stored in racks off of the ground. In addition to spills, have your staff keep an eye out for leaky sinks, ice machines, or soda dispensers, and schedule necessary repairs as soon as possible. Kitchen drains are another hot spot to monitor, as food particles and liquid can build up in them. Check each of these areas daily to help prevent the risk of pests making their way into your facility for a late-night snack.

Throughout the day, your staff should wipe down all tables and chairs in the dining area and remove any residue that might have collected during operating hours. Sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming should also be on the to-do list before closing up for the night, and don’t ignore areas hidden from view. Equipment needs to be moved regularly to allow for a thorough cleaning. The grout between tiles and chipped tile can become particularly troublesome if not cleaned properly.


Sanitation of restaurants and other food service facilities does not end inside the building; it is just as important to maintain a clean environment outside the restaurant as well. You may think the loading area is just for receiving and bringing in new shipments of food, but unfortunately, insects and rodents may also be making their way inside via this area on daily deliveries. Make sure to break down any cardboard boxes as you receive and inspect shipments. Pests use these boxes as harborage and cockroaches can feed on the glue that holds the cardboard together.

Trash cans and dumpsters are another place you may commonly find pests. Line all trash cans, secure the lids tightly, and empty the trash regularly throughout the day. When taking out the trash, take it all the way to the dumpster. Leaving trash directly outside your building is an open invitation for pests. Dumpsters should be located as far from the building as possible in order to keep pests at bay. You should clean your dumpsters regularly using an odor neutralizer to help minimize pest attraction. Also, request that your waste management company replace your dumpster twice a year. While your staff is outside, have them check the area for any trash that may have accumulated and pick that up as well. Pressure washing the building exterior and sidewalk is also useful in removing debris that can attract pests.

If your facility has an outdoor dining area, this should be cleaned daily as well by wiping up spills immediately, disinfecting tables and chairs, and sweeping. If the patio area has a crawl space underneath, be sure to inspect this area regularly in case crumbs and spills have gone undetected. Your building can add another layer of pest protection by using ultraviolet lighting at entrances to help deter pests from doorways.

The bottom line is sanitation is a critical component of customer satisfaction, health inspection scores, and the health and safety of your staff and customers. Maintaining a sanitary facility requires a great deal of work and collaboration with your staff, but is well worth the effort and can be achieved through the help of your pest management provider. Since more than half of foodborne illnesses originate in food service establishments, it is not only encouraged, but necessary to implement the steps outlined above to help keep your business pest-free.

Posted On September 6, 2016

Ron Harrison

Director of Technical Services for Orkin

Ron Harrison, entomologist, Ph.D., is director of technical services for Orkin. He is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management with more than 30 years of experience. Contact Dr. Harrison at or for more information, visit

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The Key to Keeping Customers in and Pests out
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