This story popped up on my Facebook feed a few times, and I thought it surely was a hoax. So, I sought out the original source, surprised to come across this article in The Wall Street Journal. The headline read “How to Measure a Storm’s Fury One Breakfast at a Time: Disaster Pros Look to ‘Waffle House Index’; State of the Menu Gives Clue to Damage.”
Now that’s must-read journalism.
Waffle House has earned a number of reputations. Perhaps the only positive one is that they will be open serving whatever it is they call food on whatever germ-filled surface they deem sanitized regardless of holidays, natural disasters, or zombie apocalypses. When you are down on your luck and utterly out of options, the dim yellow-tinted haze of a Waffle House diner will always be there for you.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) apparently took notice of Waffle House’s endurance in the face of disaster, and made one of those God-awful color-coded scales out of it:
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.
It’s true – if you arrive at the door of a Waffle House that is closed, you may very well be the last living member of that community. If, out of desperation, you break in and grab some sausage and grits out of a refrigerator, then you’ll likely put a bow on the job that cataclysmic disaster couldn’t quite finish.
The article goes on to talk about the goodwill the restaurant chain garners from its mailman-like dedication to service, no matter what the conditions. It seems to provide a little economic boost, as well – sometimes tripling sales in the wake of catastrophe. Waffle House even has abbreviated menus, designed to streamline service when there is no electricity.
So, as Tropical Storm Lee slowly floods portions of the Deep South, fear not! For if you have access to a small boat, you can row over to your neighborhood Waffle House for breakfast day or night – even if they have to cook it on the roof. It’s cleaner than the kitchen anyway.
BONUS: Video of the April 2011 Clinton, Miss., tornado as shot from the Waffle House. It lost power, but did not close.