Most of us think of Waffle House as the place to grab some post-imbibing sustenance before heading home, or as a rest stop for truckers weary from miles of interstate.
They don’t look like much from the outside, but inside there is a sense of comfort that comes from the atmosphere and food served up at this all-American diner. Even the late Anthony Bourdain succumbed to the restaurant chain’s charms.
“It is indeed marvelous — an irony-free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts; where everybody regardless of race, creed, color, or degree of inebriation is welcomed.”
Waffle House also plays a very important role in helping the federal government understand how communities are faring during emergencies like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been using the informal Waffle House Index for about a decade.
There are three levels on the Waffle House Index. Green indicates the restaurant is open and fully functioning. Yellow means the restaurant is open but has no power and is cooking only with natural gas. Red indicates the restaurant is closed and is used only on the rarest of occasions.
Yesterday, Waffle House went code red, announcing on social media it was closing 365 of its more than 1,600 restaurants across the nation. That is three times the number of restaurants it closed following Hurricane Katrina. Social media commenters and news reports summed up the situation with just four words, “S*#t just got real.”
With all bars closed to help with social distancing, the public impact from Waffle House’s closure is minimal. Never fear, the restaurant chain has a robust recovery process involving mobile jump teams that allow it to quickly get back up and running when the situation improves.