If you’re a restaurant owner, it’s something you never want to see. A fly in your fruit salad. A cockroach scuttling under the stove. Mouse droppings on a shelf.
To make sure that never happens, Western Pest has a variety of methods to keep restaurants, their kitchens, their dining rooms, and even their entrances, so clean you could, well, eat off the floor.
According to Hope Bowman, a technical specialist in the company’s Philadelphia-New Jersey region, there are three types of ways to get rid of pests — pest management, control, and elimination.
Different methods work for different customers, she says. “Pest control is the overall term, but there’s also pest management and elimination. There are certain methods we can use to eliminate cockroaches and mice, but mosquitoes and ticks are more difficult to eliminate so we have reduction programs for those.”
Bowman points out that there are lots of tools to manage pest populations. “Sanitation, plumbing, keeping the area clean, making sure deliveries are inspected before they’re brought in so nothing comes in by accident—these are all ways to make sure you keep your populations under control. It’s not just coming in and spraying around.”
At Western Pest, “What we try to do is to holistically look at the building and stop bugs and rodents from coming in, in the first place. We treat the area where the issue is, not the whole building,” Bowman says.
To get the best results, she adds, restaurant owners and managers need to participate in the process. “You can’t just spray bug spray and hope for the best.” The company will first come in and see what a foodservice operation is doing that could help or hurt them in the long run. “If you’re taking measures to not have pests in the first place, you’re not going to be so reliant on a pest vendor coming in every week because you already have things more under control,” Bowman notes.
Western Pest looks at four areas when screening for pests. “The entry into the building, where deliveries come in, is a very important place to have people be aware to look for them,” says Bowman. “Don’t just sign the paper, make sure there are no mouse droppings, or roaches coming in on the supplies. Keeping doors shut is another important management tool. In summer people want to keep back doors open. It gets hot in the kitchen. But put a screen door in. You don’t want flies coming in from outside — simple things like that to keep them from getting in.”
Inside, it’s the food; water and shelter for pests restaurants need to get rid of. “Spills must be cleaned up immediately. When you have people hose down the bar and kitchen, put fans on or readjust your fans so there’s no standing water. When water stays there all the time, fruit flies are breeding inside.”
Hard to reach areas can be a problem — inside drains, behind equipment that’s hard to get to or that can’t be rolled out. That’s because pests could be hiding there.
Adds her colleague John Kane, “Common spots are indeed kitchen drains, under the stove line, behind the stove line, and particularly around the deep fryers and rotisseries. Sometimes you can see the path the mop takes,” says the entomologist. “Under the stove might be a half-inch layer of grease. If you have that, you’re going to get roaches at some point.”
Drains are also another big problem. “When you lift up the drain, and see what clogs that drain – flies and larva and cockroach eggs – owners usually say, ‘Oh, we have to get these drains steam-cleaned right away.’ Chemicals will kill some but not 100%,” he says.
It’s also crucial to look at shelter, where pests might lodge – a hole in the wall, or gaps behind wall coverings, behind the cook line and fry line. “It could be stainless steel and if there are spaces and gaps or pipes that run into the kitchen, pests can hide in there,” Bowman explains.
Bowman says she sees a real mix of how well, and how badly, restaurants manage pest control. “Some of these kitchens are immaculate because owners find that to be important, but others, well, there’s only so much time in the day, and that, unfortunately, can go by the wayside.”
Technology has also changed some of the ways Western Pest treats infestations. “If you have a small kitchen we know – if there’s an issue – where it is. But in a large kitchen, it’s harder to see.” Western Pest’s solution? “We put bar codes on mouse traps and use other monitoring devices. We look at them for follow-up. But if you have equipment that always gets cockroaches, maybe it’s time to replace it.”
Kane adds that Smartphones have really helped the pest management business. “Now with Smartphones, you can rapidly get access to information, trade and share photos and video footage. We’re also incorporating some data management analysis. In the past everything was handwritten records. But now we can scan barcode traps and other equipment to collect information, store, and analyze it intuitively and statistically. Sitting in an armchair from across the state you can pull up data captured in a kitchen or warehouse and problem- solve. It opens things up.”
Western Pest also has an enzyme that can be used by purveyors to clean floors and drains to break down grease. “Use one ounce per gallon of mop water and it cuts down on grease and grime where pests breed. We treat drains with it too,” says Bowman.
Are any of their products “green”? “There really isn’t any one set green definition, but our approach is based on integrated pest management. We won’t go in and spray, especially in restaurants. We don’t want to do anything while food is out. If we start a new account, we put monitors in key areas, where pests like to harbor, where we’re more likely to find pests. We also have mechanical rodent equipment that can catch multiple rodents. We monitor the account first. We’re not going in and spraying away,” she says.
The company also uses bait to target pests, which looks like a dab of toothpaste in key areas. “Some accounts want more organic products and for those we may use a natural organic list. It depends on what the customers means by ‘green,’ and then we adapt a program to that.”
A big new factor for pest control in Manhattan is composting, which is about to be mandated. “We have a lot of people doing that and it can be a challenge for pest control,” says Bowman. “Inside the kitchen area, the area outside where it’s being collected. From a pest control standpoint, making sure things being used in the kitchen are cleaned up thoroughly before being dumped outside. Also, you can’t do it every two weeks. The frequency of collecting the compost must be high enough to not create a pest problem outside,” she concluded.