“If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad…”
— Craig Fugate, Former Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
You may only go there after the bars have all closed and you need something hot and greasy to stave off the impending hangover. You may only got there when you’re on vacation and there’s no other eateries for miles. You may only go there when the power is out and you can’t cook at home. No matter what your reason might be, when you go to a Waffle House, you’re glad it’s open … because they’re ALWAYS open. That’s the reason why in 2011, Craig Fugate, then the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came up with the Waffle House Index – an informal yet reliable metric to determine the effect of a disaster and the scale of recovery needed. The three simple levels of the index are:
GREEN: Waffle House is open with full menu
YELLOW: Waffle House is open but with limited menu
RED: Waffle House is closed – apocalypse is now
OK, FEMA didn’t use the word “apocalypse” but the message is clear to everyone who awaits the issuing of the Waffle House Index after a storm or disaster – if the Waffle House is closed, we’re in big trouble. So, why are we telling you this now?
“CANTON, Ga. – A Waffle House in Cherokee County has been closed after officials say an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.”
As reported by an Atlanta news station and other media outlets, the Waffle House located at 1849 Marietta Highway in Canton, Georgia, was notified that an employee who last worked at the restaurant on March 1 tested positive for COVID-19. While no other employees have shown signs of the disease, the employee was in a position to have been in contact with hundreds of people. While the worker could not be quarantined at home, they have been isolated at Hard Labor Creek State Park in nearby Rutledge, Georgia, which has become a closed site for short-term quarantines in mobile units by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. And …
“As a precaution, the Waffle House has been closed for sanitization. Employees who worked with the affected associate have also been told to self-quarantine at their homes through Saturday.”
RED ALERT! RED ALERT! It’s the apocalypse!
Or is it?
The Waffle House Index also takes into account if the Waffle House is able to reopen. In this case, there’s a ray of hope. While the latest news stories as of this writing do not indicate that event.
“Waffle House spokeswoman Njeri Boss said the restaurant chain is removing condiment caddies from tables because of COVID-19. Instead, customers can request condiments, and they will be brought to the table. Additionally, the restaurant is implementing additional sanitizing procedures to make sure employees’ hands and restaurant equipment is not infected.”
Has the Waffle House Index ever been red before? Not if Waffle House executives can help it. During Hurricane Dorian in 2019, a Waffle House emergency team was set up an company headquarters to prepare to send power generators, food and other essentials to keep the restaurants open. During 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, a Waffle House in South Carolina was forced to close after ceiling tiles began to fall.
Let’s hope the Waffle House worker has a full recovery and no one else they were in contact with is affected by the coronavirus. And big kudos to Waffle House for doing a herculean job of not only giving America a place to eat in times of disaster (both of the natural and self-induced kind) and providing a reliable index for the severity of it.
Warning: the emergency menu has no bacon or waffles.