Coronavirus: What is the Waffle House Index?

The informal scale is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

1y ago

Today Waffle House announced that they have closed 365 locations. This has become a daily headline, but is this just another leading restaurant chain that had to make the decision to temporarily close doors? Let's take a closer look at Waffle House and what this group restaurants mean to daily life in America.

First you will find nearly 2,000 Waffle Houses dotted all across the nation. They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What you will find when you walk in is a friendly smile, fresh cup of coffee and your meal will be quickly made to order. It's like a well orchestrated performance, the wait staff will hand write your order on a small pad that will then get called out across the room in a song-like rhythm. The cook will go to work on your meal. As the order is called out it's almost as if the two are connected somehow. As you look around the room you will see people from all walks of life. No matter how rich or poor, how early you get up or how late you were out, most have a Waffle House story.

T​here's also another mostly untold story about this small local restaurant you may not know. The Waffle House Index is a measure based on the reputation of Waffle House for having good disaster preparedness and staying open during extreme weather, or reopening quickly afterwards, oftentimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events such as tornadoes or hurricanes. Waffle House even has special training to facilitate fast reopening after disasters called "Waffle House Jump Teams".

W​affle House Jump Team in action

W​affle House Jump Team in action

Working along with other chains (such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe's) they have good risk management and disaster preparedness, not to mention the fact that a cut-down menu is prepared for times when there is no power or limited supplies. The Waffle House Index sits alongside more formal measures of wind, rainfall, and other weather information, such as the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, which are used to indicate the intensity of a storm.

"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad!" Craig Fugate, Former Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The index has three levels, based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm:

GREEN: Full menu – restaurant has power and damage is limited or no damage at all. YELLOW: Limited menu – no power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low. RED: The restaurant is closed – indicating severe damage or severe flooding.

The Waffle House Index has rarely reached the red level – until now. With this Coronavirus pandemic we now see 365 locations on RED based on the Waffle House Index. Please do your part and stay home.

3​65 stores are now operating at level RED

3​65 stores are now operating at level RED

Join In

Comments (2)

  • Waffle House is more of a southeast thing. No waffle houses in the west of the United States. It makes my trips to Dallas that much more interesting, along with chicken fried steak and barbecue

      1 year ago
  • I majored in Emergency Management, but never knew about this because there are no Waffle House’s in California... I suppose we could have a 24hr Mexican drive-through index.

      1 year ago