Texas Foodservice Operators Assess Storm Damage

Blackouts, water shortages and spoiled inventories plague businesses.

February 23, 2021

AUSTIN, Texas—Texas foodservice operators are emerging from last week’s five-day winter storm that included record-breaking low temperatures, electric blackouts, burst water pipes, fuel supply issues, food spoilage and a disabled supply chain, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.

According to Annie Spilman, Texas director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the storm couldn't have come at a worse time for small businesses. "The pandemic has already taken a tremendous toll on employers throughout the state," she said. "Now, they're facing additional losses from the sudden loss of traffic and damage from burst water pipes and, in the case of [foodservice operators], surplus supplies that are quickly going out of date."

Tinku Saini, CEO and co-founder of Tarka, an Indian restaurant with three Texas locations, closed last Sunday when the winter storm began. “At first, it was an issue with electricity,” Saini said. “None of our locations had power; all of them were restored Wednesday evening.”

On Thursday, the chain faced water issues, which ranged from low water pressure to “boil water notices” in some areas. That was followed by challenges securing fresh supplies.

“At Tarka, we make a lot of our food fresh to order,” Saini said. “We chop veggies and prep proteins so that we can customize dishes for guest’s needs. Unfortunately, a large portion of our product (produce and protein) has expired, so we’ll have to discard it.”

Velvet Taco has 16 units in Texas, but only one of four units in Houston was open. The chain faced power and water issues, and some units remained closed on Thursday. Laura Rea Dickey, CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue, said the brand was experiencing distribution issues across Texas because of warehouse power outages and road delays. Bill Bayne, CEO Fish City Grill and Half Shells Seafood, said only one store of 20 locations was open on Thursday, and it was in Lakeland, Fla.

“All other stores either had no power or we chose to close for team member safety,” he said. The storm fell on two big holidays, Valentine’s Day on Sunday and Mardi Gras on Tuesday. “Those are two of our biggest sales days,” he said, adding that the brands will provide make-up holiday promotions next week.

“We’re doing everything we can to stay open at one of our primary corporate hubs in Dallas,” Dickey said. “We’re going directly to our supplier to pick-up food supplies and packaging items to continue serving guests in the area. We’re even offering hot links, which are normally not available on the menu, as means to provide anyone who is food insecure a warm plate of food. We’ve seen lines wrapped around [one Dallas] location as many folks came in, telling us that grocery stores are all but empty … others are thankful just to have a hot meal.”