Customers notice when Rats and Roaches are seen.

As Hawaiian restaurants and food operations continue to get busier, VERMIN are getting busier too!! The Hawaii Department of Health does a great job in responding to complaints of rodents and bugs when a customer contacts the DoH. There have been a few serious infestations that the DoH had given the dreaded Red Placard, had made headlines and were all over the news. There are a few basic steps you can do to make sure that your guests are the ones you want. Warning – scary photos at end of story

The most important way is keep them out!! Inspect all walls, floors and doors inside. Any gaps need to be sealed. Door sweeps and gaskets need to make a tight seal, holes need to be filled with a solid material – rodents have very sharp teeth that gap foams get chewed thru in a minute. Look at the outside of your building too for holes, places where water accumulates after a rain, and trash buildup.

The next big step is general housekeeping inside and out. We are all good about cleaning the usual or easy to reach areas, but is sweeping under stoves all the way to the wall being done nightly? Is there a buildup of grease under and around your fryer? Vermin love to make nests or homes in supplies and equipment that is not used. Periodically, move these items to clean behind and under, while inspecting for activity. Get rid of that Rice Cooker that has been broken for years. That great deal you got on stryofoam cups back in 2010, but have been sitting in the storeroom since – can hide a rats nest.

Don’ forget about outside the kitchen. The picture here shows trash piled up and spilling on the floor, and an overflowing used grease bucket. This is all directly outside of the door to the kitchen, and you guessed it – the door has large gaps that can allow critters to get in. In my audits, I always saw this back door propped open.

Does your operation have a cleaning plan or duties? Review your plan to cover all areas of your operation. In my audits, I was amazed how many restaurant managers never looked under their equipment, or even have a flashlight!!

Lastly – All food facilities should have at least a monthly visit by a licensed Pest Control Operator. There are loads of local and national companies to work with. DoH and Food Safety Audits are likely to review the PCO records. This record shows what they found, what they did, and recommendations on facility and cleanliness issues. In my experience, these reports are either not left or sent by the PCO, or most likely just filed away. Review them and follow their recommendations.

Some operations rely on their PCO to take care of all vermin issues. They should be looked at as a partner – they would be in your operation 1 or 2 hours, but your team is there most likely 24/7. Keep a sighting log to share with the PCO so they know where to concentrate their work.

Following these basic guidelines can help keep your restaurant in the news only for your great food and Aloha Service!!

Questions on Food Safety? contact Peter B at

Manager says they sweep underneath stove nightly. Yeah, Sure.




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