Do Texas restaurants shortchange on food by the pound? Mostly not.


When Sid Miller squawked about a proposed change in law ending state oversight of scales in restaurants, we wondered if Texas Department of Agriculture inspectors have uncovered a lot of weighty problems when it comes to sales of barbecue and other vittles.

That is, do customers stand a good chance of ordering a pound of brisket and getting less than that?

Not so, at least according to the results of our open-records request filled this week by aides to Miller, the state agriculture commissioner.

Agency provides data

From this TDA-provided spreadsheet, the PolitiFact Texas fact-checking project culled a breakdown indicating that statewide in 2015-16, agency inspectors tagged and shut down scales in just seven restaurants—each time, it appears, because a test showed the scale was reflecting more weight than it should.

“Over Weight in Excess of Tolerance,” each violator was told.

By this gauge, McAllen and San Antonio had the most miscreants. There were none identified at restaurants in most cities including Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, Lubbock and Corpus Christi.

When PolitiFact Texas summarized its findings from the provided information, the agency’s Stuart Strnad suggested the results show that scale inspections required every four years—which wouldn’t be mandated under the proposed change in law—make a difference.

“Because we have a strong weights and measures program and consumer protection program, industry and restaurants understand that we regulate their scales,” Strnad said. He noted too the existing expectation that businesses rely on licensed service companies to keep scales calibrated.

Stage flags scales in seven restaurants

Let’s run through restaurants found to have scales showing too much weight.

In December 2016, most recently, the Rib House on Old Highway 90 in San Antonio had a scale that showed about 25 pounds when 20 pounds of weight was put on it, according to TDA.

Also in San Antonio, per the agency:

—In October 2016, a scale at the Smokehouse on Roland Avenue had a scale showing 10.04 pounds when a 10-pound weight was placed on it.

—In September 2016, a Bill Miller Barbecue on Military Drive showed 2.2 pounds when a 2-pound weight was placed on it.

In McAllen, according to the agency, Ramos BBQ and Catering on North 23rd Street had a scale showing too much weight in April 2015 and Alejandro’s Bakery and Pizza Factory on South 23rd Street in October 2016 had one scale showing 20.067 pounds when a 20-pound weight was placed on it and another scale showing 15.17 pounds when a 15-pound weight was put on it.

According to TDA, the other restaurants that had a scale showing too much weight were Dickey’s Barbecue Pit on Southwest Loop in Tyler in July 2015 and El Taquito Meat Market on FM 1960 in Houston in December 2015.

Groceries among businesses identified with scales showing too much weight

The agency’s full reply to the request for information suggests that other businesses—not restaurants—accounted for more than 560 instances of scales found to be showing more weight than they should.

Places where agency officials shut down such scales included giant stores like Wal-Mart and Target, grocery stores including H-E-B and Austin’s Wheatsville Co-Op on South Lamar Boulevard—and also a couple of airport airline counters, according to the provided information.

Scales showing too little weight not shut down

In customers’ favor: The agency’s inspections uncovered more than 3,100 instances of scales showing less weight than they should, according to the provided information. Anyone buying food weighed on such a scale was getting a bit extra at no charge. Jessica Escobar, a TDA attorney, said by phone stores were allowed to keep those scales in operation.

Miller has objected to House Bill 2029 by Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, which has cleared the Texas House and Senate; it’s due next on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Lozano owns five Wingstop restaurants, none of them using scales, Lozano’s legislative director, Theo Plowman, said by phone.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Austin360 Eats

New biography about David Bowie reveals details of his wild life
New biography about David Bowie reveals details of his wild life

An upcoming biography of David Bowie reveals new details about the singer’s life, including some strange propositions, NME reported. “David Bowie: A Life” will be released Sept. 12. Written by Dylan Jones, the biography is described as “intimate a portrait as may ever be drawn” about Bowie, who died Jan. 11, 2016, after...
Taylor Swift wipes social media accounts; website goes dark
Taylor Swift wipes social media accounts; website goes dark

Taylor Swift has wiped her social media accounts clean, and fans of the singer are trying to figure out why, Billboard reported. On average, Swift has put out a new album every two years since her debut in 2006. Her last album, however -- “1989” -- was released in October 2014. Friday morning, fans noticed that Swift had deleted...
The best cocktail bar in America is now in Washington
The best cocktail bar in America is now in Washington

Washingtonians: If you want to experience the heights of the craft cocktail renaissance, look no further than your own back yard. Everybody else: You now have yet another reason to visit the District of Columbia. At this year's Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail - where bars, drinks and brand ambassadors are recognized by peers around the world...
It’s your last chance to take in these Contemporary Austin exhibits
It’s your last chance to take in these Contemporary Austin exhibits

Art The Contemporary Austin. “Garth Weiser: Paintings, 2008-2017” and “Mark Lewis: Galveston.” Two exhibits at the Jones Center include the first monographic museum display of Weiser’s abstract paintings. Lewis focuses on another medium entirely, making short films about the modern urban environment. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m....
Dinges: CBS Austin works to find kids in foster care ‘Forever Families’
Dinges: CBS Austin works to find kids in foster care ‘Forever Families’

With all the craziness in the world, it’s always nice to see news outlets devote some time to positive, upbeat stories that put a smile on your face. That’s exactly what’s happening over at CBS Austin, where the station’s new “Forever Families” franchise aims to connect Central Texas children in foster care with...
More Stories