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Closed for cockroach problems

Question:

I read your column on a restaurant closed for a cockroach problem. Doesn’t every restaurant have roaches? Especially in a city like New York?  

– Anonymous Restaurant Owner, New York, NY

Answer:

I can’t put a number on it but it’s definitely true that cockroaches are a familiar fixture in many restaurants. It is almost impossible to prevent their coming into your restaurant since there are so many entry points—with your deliveries, from your neighbors, through cracks or holes, in the bags or clothes of your guests and employees, or even straight through your front door.

What you can control, through your pest management program, and good building maintenance, is whether you create a welcoming environment for pests. Ed Sherwin, president of Sherwin Food Safety in Maryland shares these tips:

  1. Keep the entire facility spotlessly clean, not just public areas.
  2. Do not allow trash and other excess items to accumulate in offices, storage rooms, locker rooms, near electrical boxes, hot water heaters, and other areas.
  3. Keep inventory at a minimum, and always remove cans, jars, and other food items from opened cardboard boxes. Transfer condiments such as sugar packets and portion control items from their cardboard cases to plastic containers with lids. Roaches like to feast on glue in cardboard.
  4. Repair and seal damaged floors, walls, baseboards, and ceiling areas to eliminate all possible nesting areas. Roaches like to hide in dropped ceilings and also inside shields for fluorescent light fixtures.  
  5. Detail clean all food production equipment; roaches can nest inside mechanical areas beneath fryers, stoves, ovens, steamers, etc. They love a moist, damp environment. Have ventilation hoods serviced quarterly, and keep hood vents and interior areas clean and free of grease and condensation.
  6. Dining room floors should be tile, wood, or other non-porous easily cleanable material. Replace wallpaper with paint or other easily cleanable wall surface.   Cockroaches like to feast on glue in carpeting and wallpaper.
  7. Work closely with your pest control operator. Insist on receiving visit notes after each treatment, not just an invoice. Follow up on all action items, especially if vermin or evidence of vermin are observed in the facility.

If the restaurant is located in an office building or in a building occupied by other tenants, such as a strip mall, work with the landlord and other tenants on a coordinated pest control program for the entire facility. Your restaurant may not be the source of the problem!

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