F&B venues present unique pest challenges

Infrequently used or cleaned shelves can provide pests a place to live. Photo credit: Wil-Kil Pest Control

Though an onsite restaurant or rooftop bar may raise a hotel’s profile, guests are not the only visitors these venues can attract. Should kitchen and hotel staff prove negligent, hoteliers can quickly find themselves facing a pest infestation.

“Just like any living thing, pests need food, water and shelter,” said Chelle Hartzer, a technical services manager for pest-control company Orkin. “So, if we provide that for them, they will take advantage of that.”

Sanitation

Keeping the hotel clean may seem like the most obvious way to not attract pests, but Alex Blahnik, a field training manager with Wil-Kil Pest Control, said the No. 1 thing hotels miss is following a sanitation schedule. “Just like at home, you don’t leave your dishes for multiple days, you clean those out,” he said.

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Hotels’ on-demand facilities are especially susceptible to pest problems, he said. Used once for a banquet or wedding and then left to sit unused for a long period of time, these spaces offer pests a place to breed and feed unchecked. An improperly cleaned beer tap, forgotten glasses or even a sink with residue left in it, he explained, all can attract flies if left alone. In addition to cleaning these facilities once they are used, he recommended rechecking them weekly, or perhaps monthly, just to ensure nothing has been forgotten.

One specific area Chad Gore, an entomologist and market technical director at Rentokil Steritech, often sees neglected is the hotel dining area. Gore offered the garbage area for a continental breakfast as an example. “You’ll have a container that has garbage cans in it with a hole in the top where you just drop your stuff down in,” he said. “Around, on the inside of that, you can get splash and spillage of food material inside there. And if that’s not cleaned up on a regular basis, then all that buildup is going to attract pests of one type or another.

Storage Tips

Gore advised storing food in hard, plastic, airtight containers. Though a determined rat theoretically could chew through, a tightly sealed container will hold in the food odors, making it less attractive. Gore raised another benefit of using these types of containers. Quite often, he said, pests can be brought in on deliveries from an infested source. In these cases, airtight containers can effectively quarantine the pests and prevent them from causing a major infestation.

Hartzer stressed the importance of elevation. “Everything should be up off the floor,” she said, “high enough that you can see underneath it so that you can see if there are dropped food particles.” Even the height of a pallet would be enough, she said. Additionally, she advised hotels immediately remove any corrugated cardboard that products may arrive in. “So many of our pests, especially cockroaches, love that corrugation and they get in there and if you leave that cardboard in there for too long and they find their way in, you have a potential infestation on your hands.”

Places for Pests to Thrive

Hartzer’s point about cardboard brings up another major factor of pest control: eliminating or monitoring places where pests can thrive undisturbed. Though the floor may look clean, she said it’s the hidden places, like cabinets where items rarely move, where pests can thrive. “So, what you’re looking for is not necessarily all that storage stuff, but the space in itself and how it’s set up,” Hartzer said.

According to Gore, grab-and-go coolers and display cases can offer pests another place to live. The equipment keeping the food cool, he explained, will produce condensation and, consequently, attract small flies. On top of that, the motors on those machines offer a place of warmth and shelter for bigger pests like mice and cockroaches.

Keeping Pests Out

The easiest way to prevent pests from becoming a problem at your hotel is to stop them from ever entering the building. While hotels may have a hard time screening every guest for bedbugs to prevent those classic pests from entering the property, hoteliers have several avenues when it comes to excluding food-and-beverage pests.

Pat Hottel, technical director at pest-management company McCloud Services, thinks the importance of pest proofing often is overlooked. In addition to actions like closing doors and educating staff, she said hotels can consider inspecting incoming products to ensure they’re not arriving at the hotel with pests inside.

Hottel also recommended monitoring another frequent landing area for pests: break and locker rooms. “The area where a German cockroach problem begins is often where the employees bring their purses and their backpacks and their coats from home,” she said. Should employees have a pest problem at home, she said it is important they stay vigilant and ensure they’re not carrying any unwanted visitors into the property.

In her experience, Hartzer said many pest issues “start on the outside and take advantage of that open door, that open window, whatever it is.” She advises hotels to keep an eye out for those sort of potential entry points every day. “How many employees does the hotel have that can be keeping their eyes open as long as they know what to look for,” she said. By educating hotel employees on what to look for, a property can have that many eyes watching for potential problems.

The most important thing in all this is to let employees know who to report an issue to, Hartzer said. “So many times I’ve been in situations where we’ve gotten this pest problem and I’m walking around and half the employees know about it and they’ve known about it for months and I look at them and I say, ‘Well, who did you tell?’ They look at me as if I have three heads: ‘Well, who would we tell?’”

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