Waffle House, Inc. is an American restaurant chain with over 1,900 locations in 25 states in the United States.[4] The bulk of the locations are in the Midwest and especially the South, where the chain is a regional cultural icon.[5] The menu consists mainly of Southern breakfast food.[6] Waffle House is headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, in the Atlanta metropolitan area.[7]

Waffle House
Waffle House
Company typePrivate
GenreCasual dining
FoundedSeptember 5, 1955; 68 years ago (1955-09-05)
Avondale Estates, Georgia, United States
FoundersJoe Rogers
Tom Forkner
Headquarters5986 Financial Drive, ,
United States
Number of locations
Area served
25 U.S. states
Key people
Walter G. Ehmer (President and CEO)
ProductsWaffles, breakfast food, sandwiches
RevenueIncrease$1 billion[2]
Number of employees
SubsidiariesWH Capital, L.L.C.
Plaque commemorating the first Waffle House restaurant

History edit

Founding edit

The first Waffle House opened on Labor Day weekend in 1955 at 2719 East College Avenue in Avondale Estates, Georgia.[8][9] That restaurant was conceived and founded by Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner.[10][9][11] Rogers started in the restaurant business as a short-order cook in 1947 at the Toddle House in New Haven, Connecticut.[12] By 1949, he became a regional manager[5] with the now-defunct Memphis-based Toddle House chain, then he moved to Atlanta. He met Tom Forkner while buying a house from him in Avondale Estates.[4]

The first Waffle House restaurant (now a museum), Avondale Estates, Georgia. Note original "syrupy" font on the sign.

Rogers's concept was to combine the speed of fast food with table service with around-the-clock availability.[5] Forkner suggested naming the restaurant "Waffle House", as waffles were the most profitable item on the 16-item menu.[5] Rogers continued to work with Toddle House, and to avoid conflict of interest, sold his interest to Forkner in 1956.

1960s-1990s edit

In 1960, when Rogers asked to buy into Toddle House, and they refused, he moved back to Atlanta and rejoined Waffle House, now a chain of three restaurants, to run restaurant operations.[12] Shortly after Joe returned full-time, Tom followed suit and left Ben S. Forkner Realty.

After opening a fourth restaurant in 1960, the company began franchising its restaurants and slowly grew to 27 stores by the late 1960s, before growth accelerated.

2000-present edit

In 2007, Waffle House repurchased the original restaurant, which had been sold by the chain in the early 1970s. The company restored it using original blueprints for use as a private company museum. The museum is used primarily for internal corporate events and tours.[13][14]

In 2008, one of the biggest Waffle House franchises in the southeast, North Lake Foods, was bought out by Waffle House, Inc. North Lake Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed some stores. Waffle House, Inc. plans to rehabilitate the franchise. In early 2009, East Coast Waffles bought North Lake Foods to become a new franchise.[15]

The founders of the Waffle House brand died in 2017 within less than two months of each other: Joe Rogers Sr. died on March 3 and Tom Forkner on April 26.[16]

Operations edit

Each Waffle House location is open 24 hours daily. This schedule has inspired the urban myth that "Waffle House doors have no locks".[17] The chain's restaurants almost always have jukeboxes, which have traditionally played 45-rpm singles[18] and, in some cases, CDs. Waffle House has released music through its own record label, Waffle Records. It has released songs from "Saturday Night At My Place" by Gary Garcia released in 1995 to "They're Cooking Up My Order" by Alfreda Gerald released in 2006. The co-founder Joe Rogers had high standards and said, "If it sounded like a commercial, it got the ax." If the song makes the cut it'll be recorded and make its way to Waffle House jukeboxes.[19] The songs are on ordinary discs, which are produced for Waffle House and are not commercially sold, but the chain has made a CD of some of the songs available for sale.[20]

The company claims to be the world's leading seller of several of its menu items—the namesake waffles, ham, pork chops, grits, and T-bone steaks. It also claims that it serves 2% of all eggs in the U.S.[21]

In the 1960s, S. Truett Cathy, the owner of a local diner called the Dwarf House, contracted with Waffle House to sell his proprietary chicken sandwich, the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. However, the Chick-fil-A sandwich quickly overtook Waffle House's own items in sales and Waffle House ended the deal, prompting Cathy to spin off Chick-fil-A into its own chain.[22]

The Waffle House in Urbana, Maryland

Waffle and Steak edit

For years, Waffle House was known as "Waffle and Steak" in Indiana due to another chain of restaurants owning the rights to the Waffle House name in the state.[23][24] The original Indiana Waffle House chain has started using the name "Sunshine Cafe".[25] However, the d/b/a for "Sunshine Cafe" belongs to "Waffle House Greenwood Inc.", established in 1981. The oldest "Waffle House" entity listed with the Corporations office of the Indiana Secretary of State is "Waffle House of Bloomington, Indiana, Inc." established in 1967, and like Waffle House Greenwood, it is still an active corporation.[26] The Bloomington operation, the city's second oldest restaurant, closed in 2013 and was demolished to make way for an apartment complex.[27] (Many of the Waffle House corporations in Indiana have been dissolved.) "Waffle House Inc." of Norcross, Georgia, registered with Indiana in 1974. In 2005, the Waffle and Steak restaurants all adopted the "Waffle House" moniker, bringing the entire chain under the name.[26]

Food safety edit

Waffle House in Oklahoma

In 2004, in response to a serious Salmonella problem in 2003 at a Chili's location in Vernon Hills, Illinois,[28] and by four deaths in 1993 from E. coli in undercooked hamburger at a Jack in the Box,[29] the television news magazine Dateline NBC investigated sanitation practices of popular American family restaurant chains, measuring the number of critical violations per inspection. The Waffle House averaged 1.6 critical violations per inspection.[30] Waffle House's response to the study pointed out that they prepare all meals in an open kitchen, and consumers can readily observe their sanitation practices themselves.[31]

On September 17, 2019, customers who ate at a Waffle House in Goose Creek, South Carolina, were exposed to Hepatitis A. One of the employees who had worked there tested positive for Hepatitis A. After upper management found out, they immediately shut down the Goose Creek Waffle House location to sanitize the facility. DHEC officials said they would be working with Waffle House to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.[32]

Cultural icon edit

A Waffle House near Clarksville, Tennessee.

As with other open-all-night eateries (including White Castle, Krystal, Denny's, Steak 'n Shake, IHOP and Krispy Kreme, as well as convenience store chain Sheetz), Waffle House has developed into a cultural icon. Part of their fame (especially that of Waffle House) is that they are so prominent along Interstate highways in the South.

Disaster recovery edit

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Waffle House is one of the top four corporations, along with Walmart, The Home Depot, and Lowe's, for disaster response.[33][34] Waffle House has an extensive disaster management plan with on-site and portable generators and positions food and ice ahead of severe weather events such as a hurricane. This helps mitigate the effects of a storm on the power grid and the supply chains.[35] The company prepares "jump teams" of recovery staff and supplies, brought in from outside disaster-affected areas, so local staff can focus on helping their own homes and families. The ability of a Waffle House to remain open after a severe storm, possibly with a limited menu, is used by FEMA as a measure of disaster recovery known as the Waffle House index.[33][36][37]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "How many Waffle House stores are there in the United States". ScreapHero. March 13, 2023. Retrieved March 19, 2023.
  2. ^ "Waffle House Chairman Joe Rogers Jr. Debuts as a Billionaire as Restaurant Industry Digs Out from Wreckage". Forbes.
  3. ^ "Our Story".
  4. ^ a b "History". Waffle House. August 21, 2015. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d "Waffle House still dishin' diner food at 50 - Business - US business - Food Inc. | NBC News". NBC News. Associated Press. August 15, 2005. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  6. ^ Maxwell, Samantha (May 18, 2021). "Popular Waffle House Menu Items, Ranked Worst To Best". Mashed. Retrieved January 7, 2024.
  7. ^ "Contact us". www.wafflehouse.com. Norcross, GA: Waffle House. 2019. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  8. ^ "A State of Innovation: Waffle House". Georgia Historical Society. July 20, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2022.
  9. ^ a b "TODAY IN HISTORY: Waffle House opened its doors 68 years ago in metro Atlanta". WSB-TV Channel 2 - Atlanta. September 5, 2023. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  10. ^ Sharpe, Joshua (April 27, 2017). "Waffle House co-founder dies at 98, a month after business partner". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on April 21, 2019. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  11. ^ "Waffle House's 1955 menu offered this ritzy dish for just $1.50". WJBF. August 6, 2023. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  12. ^ a b Osinski, Bill (December 24, 2004). "The Cornerstone of Waffle House". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018.
  13. ^ "Waffle House Museum, Decatur, Georgia". RoadsideAmerica.com. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  14. ^ Chopra, Sonia (July 18, 2013). "A Look at the First-Ever Waffle House, Now the World's Only Waffle House Museum". Eater Atlanta. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  15. ^ Collier, Joe Guy (August 5, 2009). "Bankrupt Waffle House franchisee draws bids". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on June 13, 2019.
  16. ^ Sharpe, Joshua (April 27, 2017). "Waffle House co-founder dies a month after his business partner". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on April 21, 2019.
  17. ^ Howard, Mike. "People business". Archived from the original on May 6, 2019. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  18. ^ "People business". Waffle House. Archived from the original on October 1, 2015. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  19. ^ "A B-Side With Your Bacon? Waffle House Has Its Own Music Label". NPR.org. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  20. ^ "Waffle House Records". Waffle House. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011.
  21. ^ Wilson, Dave (October 19, 2017). "Is this heaven? No, it's a Waffle House". ESPN.com. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  22. ^ "12 Things You Didn't Know About Waffle House". January 16, 2016.
  23. ^ [1] Archived May 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Does anyone else remember the old Indiana Waffle Houses?". June 9, 2023.
  25. ^ [2] Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ a b "Secretary of State - Business Services Division". Secure.in.gov. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  27. ^ Contrera, Jessica (October 21, 2013). "The end of the Waffle House". Indiana Daily Student. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  28. ^ "Marler Clark announces settlement of 49 Chili's Salmonella Claims". Prweb.com. August 12, 2004. Archived from the original on February 7, 2005. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  29. ^ "Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits - Western States (1993)". Marlerclark.com. Archived from the original on November 21, 2008. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  30. ^ "How safe are your favorite restaurants?". Marlerclark.com. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  31. ^ "Restaurants respond to rankings - Dateline NBC - Consumer Alert | NBC News". NBC News. September 28, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  32. ^ Rivera, Ray (September 18, 2019). "DHEC: Customers who ate at Goose Creek Waffle House may have been exposed to Hepatitis A". live5news.com. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  33. ^ a b "How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time". Wall Street Journal. September 1, 2011.
  34. ^ "How Waffle House Became A Disaster Indicator For FEMA". Popular Science. March 18, 2019. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  35. ^ "What Do Waffles Have to Do with Risk Management?". EHS Today. July 6, 2011.
  36. ^ If Waffle House Is Closed, It's Time to Panic By Maryn McKenna for FiveThirtyEight December 6, 2016
  37. ^ Tenney, Garrett (March 26, 2015). "When disaster strikes, FEMA turns to ... Waffle House". Fox News. Retrieved May 6, 2019.

External links edit