Commercial kitchens provide pests like cockroaches with ample locations to find harborage.
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Commercial kitchen accounts can be a boon or bane for a pest management professional (PMP). On the one hand, they can generate continuous revenue when addressed properly. On the other hand, your professional reputation can really be put to the test! Because even the smallest problems can run amok, a focused Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is the only proper procedure for remediating any commercial kitchen issue.

I define IPM in the simplest terms as a multitude of tactics to control a pest population, including:

  1. Inspect and identify the pest species
  2. Ascertain the pest population level
  3. Ascertain the sanitation level
  4. Communicate the issue to the potential customer
  5. Determine and administer the control measures
  6. Follow up and monitor

This process may be considered lengthy and tedious, but it’s what marks you as a true professional and keeps you focused and careful with every thought and action. Organizing your thoughts into a concrete plan of attack will help you define your control strategy and prevent mistakes that require unnecessary work. Keep in mind that your strategy can fluctuate based on changes in pest pressure and species.

Unlike outside residential problems, sanitation is the most important part of a commercial kitchen issue, and it’s imperative that thoughts and organization remain centered on it. Also consider questions such as: How does the lack of sanitation influence which pest species is intruding and what is the level of its population? Is there more than one pest? Is the pest entering from different areas?

Treating with a chemical or baiting in an unsanitary, messy commercial kitchen has had little effect, although there are new treatments that have shown efficacy even in unsanitary conditions. Additionally, unclean kitchens can be a liability. When you decide to take an account, you become the steward of that account.

SANITATION-ASSOCIATED PESTS. So, let’s discuss two pest examples that commonly occur in commercial kitchens and are associated with sanitation: Drain flies and German cockroaches.

Example 1: Drain fly. The most common fly issues involve drain flies. I consider drain flies “Stage 1” — the simplest of fly pest problems associated with commercial kitchens. Drain flies (Psychodidae) typically breed and live around drains, but occasionally also trash receptacles if conditions are good. They are weak flyers and tend to plume up not far from their nesting areas when disturbed, and then return to their source of sustenance. As a result, if you clean and maintain drains, their population usually crashes — it’s a simple task, but commonly overlooked. In addition, if you encounter a serious issue with other pest fly species, drain flies are most likely present as well. They are a good early indicator that the facility does not practice proper internal sanitation methods.

Example 2: German cockroach. German cockroaches (Blatella germanica) are always associated with human activity; in fact, Blatella germanica is the master species for adaptation of the human environment. Roaches are usually accidentally introduced into a facility, and their presence is always alarming. The majority of infested facilities take notice immediately and quickly try to rectify the problem. Lack of attention to an infestation will guarantee worse issues will develop as roach populations can grow quickly. I have witnessed situations where German cockroaches are accidentally introduced into clean residential houses and take hold rapidly when ignored. In such circumstances, it can easily take two weeks of strong focus to eliminate the issue. Can you imagine how much worse the infestation can be in a cluttered and unsanitary commercial kitchen? Nightmare!

How do you address the nightmare? Focus on the fact that German cockroaches love to hide, and they can hide well. They also like the cover of darkness when foraging. In a cluttered unsanitary commercial kitchen, applying chemical and bait that competes with the kitchen food will have little effect. This method will be unsuccessful and you will risk losing the account. Instead, ask the following questions: Are shelves in order? Is all unnecessary packaging discarded? Can you conduct pinpoint crack and crevice applications? Proper sanitation and cleanliness allows for better target application of product. If a customer does not follow through on their end, cancel the account.

CUSTOMIZE YOUR TREATMENT. Regardless of the pest in question, tailoring your strategy to existing guidelines the customer might have will help facilitate the proper overall control process, making successful implementation far more likely and easier to achieve. So ask yourself for any given commercial kitchen: What sanitation practices are required? Is there a maintenance program in place? Large commercial kitchens such as university and casino cafeterias are not commonly regulated by FDA. They can, however, be subject to food processing standards, and the PMP might have to tailor his/her practices around existing protocols. While this may demand serious time and energy, it can be worthwhile if there are good sanitation guidelines in place already. If the customer lacks a sanitation process, then formulate the process to best tailor what is needed — and make sure this is reflected in your price-point when charging the customer.

Customer education and communication are the most important components of . After all, you, the PMP, must sell the process. First, understand your customer’s budget. Understanding their financial situation enables you to communicate realistic expectations. Be honest, upfront and realistic. Realistic expectations protect you and the customer. Given realistic expectations, you can properly price the cost of corrective action. Usually the upfront cost for beginning the service, where corrective action is highest, is more expensive than the subsequent continued maintenance service. Price this initial service accordingly. Use more technicians to conduct the initial service if necessary.

If possible, have the same technicians service the same accounts and remember to instill in them the IPM process. Your service technicians need to understand the principles of IPM. They must be good communicators. A customer will see careless writing and organization as sloppy thinking, and no customer wants to deal with a disorganized technician.

The author is a Ph.D. and director of technical services of Nisus Corporation.