No Pests, More Guests

by Katie Lee

— By Mike Watt —


How to get rid of the frequent diners you do NOT want.


There is no privacy anymore, and no privacy can often turn into terrible publicity for restaurants. For instance, go to YouTube and type in the query “video rats in a restaurant” and more than three pages come up all showing rats running around a restaurant kitchen.

Mike Watt, Avmor

But, that’s not the only rodent restaurant owners and managers may have to grapple with.  If rats are present, very often mice are as well.  And if mice are present, there is no end to the types of insects that have either infested a restaurant and its surrounding area or are on the way. You see, they are all attracted to the same foods we generally eat, along with the food odors and warmth found in many restaurants.

What is interesting, is that sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for it.  For instance, Dale Kaukeinen, a pest control expert, has found that even different restaurants of the same franchise, following precisely the same cleaning and maintenance protocols, may not have the same problem. This is because, “there may be rats in local sewers, or rats or mice being supported by other businesses adjacent or nearby one restaurant and not the other.”

Further, one franchise location, for instance, in a strip mall, may be surrounded by businesses such as grocery stores, pet stores, meat markets and parks, which may have resident rodent problems. Especially if the weather turns cold, these rodents and insects will start looking for a new home, and a nearby restaurant is often an appealing place.

What We Can Do

While it might seem that some restaurants may be located in the wrong place, when it comes to pests entering your property, that does not mean you have to give up and accept it.  In fact, the public health inspector may become even more demanding if a property has been found to have an ongoing rodent problem.

So, since we cannot ignore the problem, here are some of the things we can do:

  • Remove vegetation surrounding the dumpster area; if rodents or insects are in the vegetation, it is now nothing more than a hop-skip-and-jump to find their way into your kitchen.
  • Cover up brick walls and exterior plumbing. Rodents and insects are excellent climbers. Brick walls and exterior plumbing are like a road map to get into your property.
  • Bag and double bag all trash. Use heavy trash liners. This is not the time to skimp on trash liners.
  • Encourage staff to close back doors, especially those leading to trash and dumpster areas.
  • Sometimes your neighbors are using your dumpster for their garbage; if this is happening, lock your dumpster.
  • Take a look at your dumpster. Most dumpsters have holes at the bottom and sometimes on the sides; these are provided for drainage. However, if you are experiencing an infestation, close these openings.  Now you are blocking entry to rodents and insects as well as minimizing entrancing odors that will have them knocking on your door.

Dumpster Cleaning: The Key to Resolving the Rodent Problem

If there is one point in your trash area that is the source of those odors that attract rodents and insects, it is the dumpster. We already mentioned that covering liquid drainage holes is one way of discouraging rodents and insects from jumping into the dumpster, looking for all the food treasures it offers.

But how many restaurant owners/managers do you know that have taken this step? It’s a problem — a grimy, dirty issue — that many restaurant owners/managers and their staff would prefer to avoid.

So, what options do we have to ensure that the dumpsters typically behind a restaurant are not providing insects and rodents with a red carpet into your property?

One option is to work with a scavenger company that will pick up, remove and replace your current dumpsters on a regular basis.  They will charge for the service, but this can relieve you of a messy problem.

Another is to not overfill dumpsters.  This often results in the top of the dumpster being left open. Not a good idea. If this is a common practice, have two or three or more dumpsters. Also, separate them into “dry” trash and “wet” trash like food waste. The dry dumpsters will have minimal problems; the wet dumpsters are where we will need to concentrate our efforts.

But the best option is to eradicate the soiling and odors from the dumpster by selecting the right cleaning solution.  What we want to do is not wash them away, but eat them away.

The “Eating” Solution

Very often, dumpsters are cleaned using very powerful degreaser-type cleaners. While some of these may be green-certified by reputable certification organizations in Canada, they may not necessarily be green-certified for use in the U.S. But even so, these are very powerful cleaning solutions.  Often, the worker must get inside the dumpster to pressure wash it or deck it down with brushes. The fumes are overpowering and rarely healthy to inhale.

At least one manufacturer offers another solution. They make cleaning solutions — bio-active cleaning solutions — that essentially eat oils, grease and other soiling in the dumpster. The amount used can be adjusted based on the severity of the situation.  Be sure to mix with cold water only.

Two attributes of these cleaning solutions stand out. They are very effective at eliminating odors because they eat the odor-causing bacteria and they continue to work after being applied.

Taking advantage of these bio-active solutions, a useful dumpster cleaning protocol would be the following:

  • Remove all solid material from the dumpster.
  • Sweep the dumpster clean.
  • Apply the bio-active cleaning solution to the inside and outside of the dumpster using a pressure washing attachment.
  • Hose down the dumpster, washing away soil.
  • Then apply the bio-active cleaner a second time and let it sit on the surface.

This two-application process helps ensure as much of the soil, bacteria and odors on the dumpster have been eliminated as possible. Now, make it a regular habit to inspect the dumpsters. The same process just discussed can be used to clean and maintain the entire trash area. It can save a lot of pest infestation headaches, and ensure you are providing your patrons with a healthy, pest-free restaurant.



— Mike Watt is director of training and new product development at Avmor, a leading North American manufacturer of professional cleaning solutions.

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