Restaurants take extra steps, get creative during boil water notice


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health sent out a list to all of the city’s registered restaurants, outlining the extra steps required in food preparation during the boil water notice. 

Until the notice is lifted, health inspectors have been directed to follow up and make sure businesses are following those requirements, during their regular health inspections. According to Austin Public Health, inspectors have seen broad compliance, so far.

“It was a little stressful at first,” said P. Terry’s General Manager Matthew Harrell. “But once we kind of knew what to do, we got in, started boiling up a lot of the water, trying to get as much as we could ready, so we could keep with our regular schedule as far as prep goes and get customers notified, as well.”

Like many restaurants, P. Terry’s isn’t serving any ice, water or fountain drinks during the boil water notice. The Austin chain is still serving orange juice and milkshakes, which Harrell says are running in low supply.

“The number one question, as far as safety concerns, is how are we getting our produce done,” Harrell said. “How are we washing the lettuce, tomatoe? What kind of water is it?”

Harrell says it’s a time-consuming process. His employees are boiling water, then cooling it in walk in freezers, before rinsing produce, so that the vegetables are being washed at the proper temperature.

“We’re making sure no customer gets any sort of reaction to this at all,” Harrell says. 

While a lot of restaurants have figured out workarounds, others chose to temporarily shut down. Harrell says that means extra business at the restaurants that remain open. 

“More than usual for a Monday or Tuesday, for sure,” he said.
Smaller businesses are feeling that pressure. As several other east side restaurants closed down, Austin Daily Press Head Chef Reed Faitak says his sandwich shop got a lot of the extra traffic.

“People just being rerouted from places where they were intending on going already,” Faitak said.

Faitak is still serving drinks like lemonade and cold brew, which means constant boiling and cooling in his small kitchen.

“We have limited stove space here, so thre’s really only one spot where we can do it, and so we just kind of have to keep it going,” Faitak says. “We’re just kind of keeping containers of clean water around wherever we can keep them.”

Faitak says all he can do is hope the water restrictions are lifted soon.

“Mostly just to stay sane, at this point,” he laughed.

Restaurateurs say another big strain is hand washing during the boil water notice. Austin Public Health requires that all employees wash their hands with either bottled or boiled water, as long as the advisory is in effect. Public health officials are asking anyone with questions or complaints relating to restaurant procedures during the boil water notice to call and report to 311.

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