WEB EXCLUSIVE: Cockroaches in the Restaurant Industry


May 25, 2010

Kentucky PMP finds success using cockroach bait in restaurants

Oftentimes, the reason many pest management professionals (PMPs) love what they do is for the challenge of it all. For Patrick Hickman, service manager at OPC Pest Control in Louisville, Ky., it’s not just any bed bug-infested apartment or lawn covered in fire ants that gets his blood pumping. His greatest satisfaction comes from facing his ultimate adversary: food-processing plants.

“All the laws and regulations, auditors and inspections make it incredibly hard to treat at food-processing plants. There are so many restrictions on what you can apply and where,” Hickman says. “It takes a lot of cooperation and experience to apply that to solving a problem, or even better, identifying it before it starts.”

About 90% of Hickman’s services are commercial versus residential, compared to OPC’s overall ratio of about 40%. His passion for food industry-related sites, from the plants he likes so much, to the warehouses and, finally, the restaurants, keep him busy.

He’s most interested in his daily routine of tackling tough pest problems, of learning something new and, most importantly, of keeping customers happy.

Five-star Service
OPC, a family-owned company, has always strived to distinguish itself in this ever-crowded market through its emphasis on customer relations. When Hickman joined the company in 1997, maintaining this mantra was part of an easy transition. Today, he manages six technicians — and is always training them to have the best possible relationships with their clients.

“Your customer has to come first. Granted, you might have a stop, a follow-up or an additional service that doesn’t generate money, but you still have to do it,” he says. “You have to make money but you have to take care of the customer — the more you take care of them, the more business comes your way.”

He also recognizes part of keeping that distinction is through effective pest control.

“There are no surprises when it comes to customers. The bottom line is, when they’re dealing with a pest issue, they just want it gone,” he says. “Callbacks in the food industry are costly for the client. They are losing production time and business because a cockroach can mean a free meal for a patron — or, worse, a bad reputation.”

According to Hickman, populations of cockroaches in Louisville have been increasing in recent years, and are one of the Top 5 pests he deals with in the commercial market. As the number of cockroaches rises, so does the urgency of finding effective, fast control. Hickman mostly deals with German cockroaches, but also some American cockroaches. He finds that sanitation issues are the hardest to overcome in the fight against this pest.

Traditionally, Hickman used crack and crevice treatments to combat cockroaches. But, over time, he has found they don’t always work efficiently.

Hitting the Spot
At one particular restaurant, Hickman could not rely on his go-to treatment to control the cockroaches. He tried everything — residuals, using a micro-injector, dusts and liquids — but nothing was doing the trick. In the past, he shied away from baits in restaurants, theorizing they wouldn’t be attracted to them when there is so much other filth on the floor.

He was out of options for the problem, however, and on a recommendation decided to try Maxforce Magnum Killer Roach Bait Gelfrom Bayer Environmental Science.

“A little hesitant, I bought two tubes, went in and treated the restaurant,” he says. “I haven’t had a roach problem there since, and I was blown away by the results.”

The gel is made with the active ingredient fipronil, so cockroaches don’t have to eat it; they just have to come in contact with it.

“They just walk over the top of it,” Hickman says. “Even if there is an aversion, they’re still coming in contact with the gel and passing along the active ingredient to other roaches.”

Acceptance of the product is the No. 1 factor Hickman looks for when deciding how to treat, he says. If the cockroach responds and the facility is roach-free, the client is happy.

“I’ve had great luck with the bait gel, and I’ll continue to use it until it doesn’t work anymore,” he says.

He hasn’t encountered a cockroach in that particular restaurant since he started using the bait.  Needless to say, he has tackled the challenge of gaining at least one more satisfied customer.

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