Waffle House

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Waffle House, Inc.
Private
IndustryRestaurants
GenreCasual dining
FoundedSeptember 5, 1955; 64 years ago (1955-09-05)
Avondale Estates, Georgia, U.S.
FoundersJoe Rogers Sr.
Tom Forkner
Headquarters5986 Financial Drive, ,
GA 30071
Number of locations
2,100[1]
Area served
Southern United States
Key people
Walter G. Ehmer (President and CEO)
ProductsWaffles Breakfast Eggs Bacon Sausage Omelettes Steak Hashbrowns Sandwiches Coffee Toast Ham Orange Juice Grits Hamburgers
Websitewafflehouse.com

Waffle House, Inc. is an American restaurant chain with 2,100 locations in 25 states in the United States.[2] Most of the locations are in the South, where the chain is a regional cultural icon.[3] Waffle House is headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, in the Atlanta metropolitan area.[4]

Plaque commemorating the first Waffle House restaurant

History[edit]

The first Waffle House opened on Labor Day weekend in 1955 at 2719 East College Avenue in Avondale Estates, Georgia.[2] That restaurant was conceived and founded by Joe Rogers Sr. (1919–2017) and Tom Forkner (1918–2017).[2][5] Rogers started in the restaurant business as a short-order cook in 1947 at the Toddle House in New Haven, Connecticut.[6] By 1949, he became a regional manager[3] 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.[2]

The first Waffle House restaurant in Avondale Estates, now a museum, with the 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. He told Forkner, "... You build a restaurant, and I'll show you how to run it," recalls Tom Forkner.[3]

Forkner suggested naming the restaurant Waffle House, as waffles were the most profitable item on the 16-item menu. The fragile nature of waffles also made the point that it was a dine-in, not a carry-out, restaurant, but it confused patrons as to meal availability other than breakfast.[3]

Rogers continued to work with Toddle House, and to avoid conflict of interest, sold his interest to Forkner in 1956. 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.[6] 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. The company is privately held and does not disclose annual sales figures, but says they serve 2% of the eggs used in the nation's food-service industry. The founders limit their involvement in management, and as of 2013, Joe Rogers Jr. was CEO and retired late 2013, and Bert Thornton is President.[3]

Although the Waffle House chain is concentrated in the Southeast, it has reached as far to the north as Austinburg, Ohio, near Ashtabula, as far to the west as Goodyear, Arizona, in the suburbs of Phoenix, as far to the south as Key Largo, Florida, and as far to the east as Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.

In 2007, Waffle House repurchased the original restaurant, which was sold by the chain in the early 1970s and was most recently a Chinese restaurant. 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,[7] with public tours available on Wednesdays.[8]

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.[9]

The founders of the Waffle House brand died in 2017 within two months of each other: Joe Rogers Sr. died on March 3 and Tom Forkner on April 26.[10]

Operations[edit]

Waffle from the Waffle House

Each Waffle House location is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This schedule has inspired the urban myth that "Waffle House doors have no locks."[11]

The chain's restaurants almost always have jukeboxes, which have traditionally played 45-rpm singles[12] and, in some cases, CDs. Often, the entire first column of selections and much of the second column would have songs about Waffle House and its food. Many of the songs are written or sung by people with connections to the chain, such as Mary Welch Rogers. 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.[13] In 2012-13, most (if not all) of the locations have removed the 45-rpm/CD jukeboxes in favor of digital touchscreen jukeboxes provided by TouchTunes, which, at Waffle House restaurants, still feature all of the original Waffle House songs.[citation needed]

Waffle House provides reservation, candlelight service on Valentine's Day beginning in 2008 with one restaurant in Johns Creek, Georgia, and growing into over 30 in 2009.[14]

The servers use a proprietary version of diner lingo to call in orders, and the menu suggests some use of the same lingo when placing orders for hash brown potatoes: "scattered" (spread on the grill), "smothered" (with onions), "covered" (with cheese), "chunked" (with diced ham), "diced" (with diced tomatoes), "peppered" (with jalapeño peppers), "capped" (with mushrooms), "topped" (with chili), and "all the way" (with all available toppings). The option of "country" was added for hash browns with sausage gravy on them.[15] Additionally, the company has a symbolic code by which grill operators are told the specific orders that go on each customer's plate; a 2017 ESPN.com story gave the following overview of this code:

Using accoutrements such as jelly packets, mayonnaise packets, pickles, cheese and hash brown pieces, grill operators are told what orders go on which plates. A jelly packet at the bottom of the plate signifies scrambled eggs. Raisin toast is signified by a packet of apple butter. A mustard packet facing up means a pork chop. Face-down means country ham. A pat of butter is a T-bone, and its place on the plate determines how the steak cooked, from well done at the top to rare at the bottom.[15]

The company claims to be the world's largest 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.[15]

Locations[edit]

According to Waffle House's website, its number of locations per state consists of the following:[16]

Waffle and Steak[edit]

This Waffle House in Fort Worth, Texas, is near the Texas Motor Speedway

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.[17] Reportedly, the original Indiana Waffle House chain has started using the name "Sunshine Cafe".[18] 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.[19] The Bloomington operation, noted for being the city's second oldest restaurant, closed in 2013 and was demolished to make way for an apartment complex.[20] (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 iconic name.[19]

Food safety[edit]

In 2004, in response to a serious Salmonella problem in 2003 at a Chili's location in Vernon Hills, Illinois,[21] and by four deaths in 1993 from E. coli in undercooked hamburger at a Jack in the Box,[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]

Association with politics[edit]

Waffle House has a history of supporting conservative Republicans. In 2012 Waffle House donated $100,000 to American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove.[25] Waffle House also donated $50,000 to Restore Our Future, a Super-PAC created to boost Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid. In their home state, Waffle House has supported many of Georgia's congressional Republicans.[26] Waffle House Vice-President Don Balfour was the longest serving Republican in the Georgia senate.[27]

Cultural icon[edit]

A Waffle House restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama
A Waffle House located in Hagerstown, Maryland

As with other open-all-night eateries (including White Castle, Krystal, Denny's, Steak ’n Shake, and Krispy Kreme), 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. Jim Ridley wrote in 1997:

The Waffle House is everywhere in the South. It has inspired country songs, comedy routines, loving editorials, a scene in the movie Tin Cup, and even web sites and Internet newsgroups that breathlessly post late-breaking developments. With more than 1200 locations in 20 states, as far north as Ohio and as far west as Arizona, Waffle House is cherished by thousands of diners. Regular customers speak of its employees, its customs, and its food with near reverence. Touring musicians have been known to eat five meals a week there. Yet the Waffle House is so pervasive, it is invisible. It does not advertise; it hides in plain sight.[28]

Waffle House is called the "low-rent roadside cafe featuring waffles" in the 1996 romantic comedy movie Tin Cup.[29] It is also shown in the 2006 film ATL, the 2018 film Love, Simon, and the movie Due Date, in which the main character selects that restaurant, despite being allergic to waffles. A Waffle House in Nashville was the setting for a routine by the stand-up comedian Bill Hicks.[30] The aforementioned 2017 ESPN story stated, "there's no business that has a more symbiotic relationship with college football fans of every stripe than the Waffle House." Waffle House is particularly popular among football fans from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference, with locations in college towns attracting crowds before and after football games.[15]

Waffle House is referenced to in popular music, as in the songs "The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang, "24 Hours" by TeeFlii and "Big Amount" by 2 Chainz"", "Alley Oop" by Yung Gravy featuring Lil Baby[31], in the title of the Hootie & the Blowfish album Scattered, Smothered and Covered, and in "Welcome to Atlanta" by Jermaine Dupri.

Disaster recovery[edit]

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Waffle House is one of the top four corporations, along with Walmart, The Home Depot, and Lowe's, for disaster response.[32][33] Waffle House has an extensive disaster management plan with on-site and portable generators and positioned 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.[34] The company prepares 'jump teams' of recovery staff and supplies, brought in from outside disaster-affected areas, so that 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.[32][35][36]

Incidents[edit]

Waffle Houses have been the site of several shooting incidents. On April 22, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee a partially-naked gunman armed with an AR-15 style rifle killed 4 people before he was disarmed by a patron and escaped.[37] The shooter, 29 year old Travis Reinking, was captured after a day-long manhunt.

Other shootings have taken place in Waffle House locations in New Albany, Indiana; Ohio; North Carolina and Mississippi in 2017, and in Florida, Louisiana and Missouri in 2018.[38]

In 2018, there were two incidents at Waffle Houses where the employees called the police on unarmed African-American customers, who deployed force against them. One 22 year old wearing a tuxedo was choked by police officers, and another young woman was aggressively held down by police, revealing her breasts. This came at a time of heightened sensitivity over a number of incidents where police were called over customers of African-American background, at Starbucks and other locations in the United States.[39]

On October 29, 2018, a rapper known as Young Greatness was shot to death outside a Waffle House in New Orleans. He was 34 years old.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Martin, Michael (April 23, 2018). "How many Waffle Houses are there?". Metro.
  2. ^ a b c d "History". Waffle House. August 21, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e "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.
  4. ^ "Contact us". www.wafflehouse.com. Norcross, GA: Waffle House. 2019. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b Osinski, Bill (December 24, 2004). "The Cornerstone of Waffle House". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018.
  7. ^ Macdonald, Mary (July 12, 2007). "Waffle House whips up a sizzling museum". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 12, 2007.[dead link]
  8. ^ Howard, Mike. "The Waffle House Museum". Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  9. ^ Collier, Joe Guy (August 5, 2009). "Bankrupt Waffle House franchisee draws bids". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on June 13, 2019.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Howard, Mike. "People business". Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  12. ^ "People business". Waffle House. Archived from the original on October 1, 2015. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  13. ^ "Waffle House Records". Waffle House. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011.
  14. ^ "Waffle House dresses up for Valentine's Day". al.com. February 13, 2009. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d Wilson, Dave (October 19, 2017). "Is this heaven? No, it's a Waffle House". ESPN.com. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  16. ^ "Waffle House Store Locator". Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  17. ^ [1] Archived May 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ [2] Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ a b "Secretary of State - Business Services Division". Secure.in.gov. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  20. ^ Contrera, Jessica (October 21, 2013). "The end of the Waffle House". Indiana Daily Student. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  21. ^ "Marler Clark announces settlement of 49 Chili's Salmonella Claims". Prweb.com. August 12, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "How safe are your favorite restaurants?". Marlerclark.com. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  24. ^ "Restaurants respond to rankings - Dateline NBC - Consumer Alert | NBC News". MSNBC. September 28, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  25. ^ Murphy, Tim (June 22, 2012). "Big Waffle Goes All in for American Crossroads". Mother Jones. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  26. ^ Jilani, Zaid (April 23, 2015). "Waffle House's Diner Empire is Based on Right-Wing Politics and Ripping Off Workers". AlterNet. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  27. ^ Green, Josh (October 31, 2012). "Senate race pits Balfour against Lawrenceville attorney". Gwinnett Daily Post. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
  28. ^ "Arts & Leisure: Night Spot (Nashville Scene . 08-11-97)". Weeklywire.com. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  29. ^ "Tin Cup" (PDF). Dailyscript.com. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
  30. ^ Selby, Jenn (February 26, 2014). "Bill Hicks quotes: 10 classic jokes 20 years on 'It's always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it's just hilarious'". The Independent. London. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  31. ^ Yung Gravy (Ft. Lil Baby) – Alley Oop, retrieved February 19, 2019
  32. ^ a b "How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time". Wall Street Journal. September 1, 2011.
  33. ^ "How Waffle House Became A Disaster Indicator For FEMA". Popular Science. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  34. ^ "What Do Waffles Have to Do with Risk Management?". EHS Today. July 6, 2011.
  35. ^ If Waffle House Is Closed, It's Time to Panic By Maryn McKenna for FiveThirtyEight December 6, 2016
  36. ^ Tenney, Garrett (March 26, 2015). "When disaster strikes, FEMA turns to ... Waffle House". Fox News. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  37. ^ CNN, Doug Criss. "The Waffle House shooting suspect had his guns taken away -- twice". CNN. Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  38. ^ Blinder, Alan (April 25, 2018). "Portrait of the South, Served Up One Waffle House Order at a Time". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  39. ^ "His night began with prom. It ended with an officer slamming him outside a Waffle House". Washington Post. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  40. ^ Strauss, Matthew (October 29, 2018). "Rapper Young Greatness Shot and Killed". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019.

External links[edit]