Keep Rodents Off The Menu This Winter

By Hope Bowman, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services

It’s that time of year again – temperatures are dropping and rodents are on the prowl for food, water and warm shelter to survive the winter. Let’s face it. Rodents are not welcome dinner guests at restaurants. Rats and mice are a sign of an unsanitary restaurant and can cause immediate shutdown resulting in loss of revenue and a damaged reputation. Additionally, rodents pose serious health threats to your employees and patrons.

The best way to safeguard your restaurant against rodents is to be proactive and take preventive measures, work with a pest management professional and understand the signs of rodents. Here are some tips to help keep rodents out of your restaurant this winter.

Rodent prevention tips:

• Close all entry points. Just like us, rodents want a warm place to escape the cold. If they detect heat coming from inside your establishment, it will immediately become a target and they’ll look for any way possible to get inside. For this reason, it’s critical to eliminate entry points. Caulk and seal any holes or cracks around the exterior of the restaurant. Rats can squeeze through a hole as small as a quarter and mice a dime, so seal even the tiniest openings. Keep doors closed when not in use. Check for gaps around doors and windows and install tight-fitting weather stripping and door sweeps.

• Tightly seal food and garbage, and keep the kitchen clean. Rodents will eat any scraps left behind. Take out trash regularly and store food in airtight containers that are at least six inches from the floor and away from the wall. Make sure garbage cans have tight-fitting lids and place dumpsters as far away from the building as possible.

• Eliminate standing water. Like humans, rodents can’t survive without water. Wipe down any spills or excess moisture immediately. If you have soft drink machines, ice machines or dishwashers, ensure there aren’t any leaks.

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• Trim all shrubs and trees around the restaurant. Rodents are great hiders, so it is important to regularly trim back all shrubbery and trees around the building to eliminate any potential hiding places.

• Get your employees onboard. Educate your employees about pest prevention and identification. Your provider may be able to offer educational resources or training for your team.

Identify the signs of rodents:

• Droppings: Beyond seeing the rodent itself, droppings are the number one sign that rodents are or have been present. Droppings are often found in food and storage areas.

• Noises: If you hear scurrying or squeaking around the restaurant, particularly at night, it is likely rodents have found a home in your restaurant.

• Gnaw marks: Packaged products or any food materials that have teeth marks are another indication rodents may be present. Inspect all of your products and inventory carefully to ensure rodents haven’t made their way inside.

• Rub markings on walls or inventory: Rodents are known to leave behind rub or grease markings as they make their way through the restaurant. Markings can likely be found on products, inventory and walls.

• Nests: Pay close attention to the darker, more secluded areas in your establishment, as those areas are likely to have the most rodent traffic. Once inside, rodents can build nests using any material they can find in the restaurant ranging from string and paper to food wrappers. Nests are shaped like a ball and will likely have droppings inside or around them.

• Contact a professional if you suspect rodents. Early detection and identification of pest problems helps keep issues to a minimum. If you see any signs of rodents, contact your pest management professional immediately.

Protect your restaurant against rodents this winter. Be proactive and work with a pest management professional to help maintain a rodent-free restaurant.

Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and board-certified entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New-Jersey based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets. Learn more about Western by visiting