Nature, Weather & Space

How Waffle House Became Important During Disasters

Serving up tasty waffles is not all the restaurant chain is known for.

Waffle House has long been a popular spot for round-the-clock comfort food for locals and travelers alike throughout the South. Serving up tasty waffles is not all the restaurant chain is known for, though. They also have a reputation for something else: serving as a safe haven in the event of natural disasters.

The company prides itself on keeping most of its 2,100 locations open 24/7, even in the face of severe weather, such as Hurricane Florence. The storm was approaching the Carolinas as of Thursday afternoon and is expected to make landfall on Friday morning.

In fact, if you’re wondering just how serious an impending storm may be, you can refer to the handy Waffle House Index, which was established by a FEMA director in 2011. A green index means a Waffle House is open and offering a full menu. A yellow index indicates that a location is open but serving a limited menu. When a location is closed, the index is red, which is quite rare.

“They know immediately which stores are going to be affected and they call their employees to know who can show up and who cannot,” Panos Kouvelis, Ph.D., the Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management and director of the Olin’s Boeing Center for Technology, Information and Manufacturing, explained to EHS Today. “They have temporary warehouses where they can store food and most importantly, they know they can operate without a full menu. This is a great example of a company that has learned from the past and developed an excellent emergency plan.”

For their part, Waffle House is glad that they can serve as a barometer of the severity of the storm for the community.

“If we are open quickly after the storm, that means the community is coming back and folks are out, we are getting back to that sense of normalcy,” Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner told CNN. “After a storm, they’re really looking to us to be there to help them out because they’re used to us being there the rest of the year.”

Thank you to the dedicated Waffle House employees who are there to help out!