Having an organization's reputation strengthened in the face of a natural disaster is something few businesses have enjoyed, especially not multiple times—except for Waffle House.
While Hurricane Irene has rendered millions of homes and businesses from Virginia to Vermont powerless and flooded even several days after making landfall, destroying the flow of business up and down the coast, Waffle House's preparation and response to Irene, as well as other hurricanes before it, has bolstered the restaurant's reputation for crisis preparedness.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Blog, FEMA head administrator Craig Fugate has said that he learned during his days as the head of Florida’s Department of Emergency Management to use a simple test to determine how quickly a community might be able to get up and running again after a disaster: The Waffle House test.
"If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red. Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters…it’s rare for the index to hit red," Fugate said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, during Hurricane Irene, Waffle House lost power to 22 restaurants in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. By Wednesday evening, all but one in hard-hit coastal Virginia were back in business. In May, 2011, two Joplin, Mo., Waffle Houses remained open and served the community throughout its disastrous tornado crisis.
Even in the most dire situations, Waffle House proves its commitment to serving its local communities. Pat Warner, a member of the company's crisis-management team, told the Journal, "If you factor in all the resources we deploy, the equipment we lease, the extra supplies trucked in, the extra manpower we bring in, a place for them to stay, you can see we aren't doing it for the sales those restaurants generate."
This is the same organization that invited musician Kid Rock back to host a fundraiser for a family homeless shelter after he was arrested on battery charges while visiting an Atlanta-area Waffle House in October 2007—it knows how to turn a negative situation into a positive.
And while we don't yet know when or where Hurricane Katia may hit as she spins her way up the Atlantic, you can bet that more than just Fugate and FEMA will be relying on their local Waffle House to lead them through the storm.