The Waffle House Index

Talk about a brand identity.  FEMA has what they call the "Waffle House Index" to gauge how severely an area has been impacted by a natural disaster:

Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.

"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."

Waffle House Inc. has 1,600 restaurants stretching from the mid-Atlantic to Florida and across the Gulf Coast, leaving it particularly vulnerable to hurricanes. Other businesses, of course, strive to reopen as quickly as possible after disasters. But the Waffle House, which spends almost nothing on advertising, has built a marketing strategy around the goodwill gained from being open when customers are most desperate…

In a recent academic paper, Panos Kouvelis, a business-school professor at Washington University in St. Louis, pegged Waffle House as one of the top four companies for disaster response, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Lowe's Cos.

I definitely recommend reading the full article.  Great look at the power of planning and adaptation.

5 thoughts on “The Waffle House Index

  1. Kim E Williams

    try this. walk in to a Waffle House and ask the manager to show you the keys to the door. they can’t when the places are built, the keys are paved into the parking lot because of their commitment to never lock the doors.

  2. Kristen Daukas

    Having spent several years in an industry that served those in the disaster recovery and business continuity community, this is a really great article Jon. How cool is it that a little breakfast nook has a plan so ironclad that it can rock with the big boys like HD and WM. Just goes to show you don’t have to be “fancy” to be a big player.


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