Waffle House

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Waffle House Inc.
Type Private
Industry Restaurants
Genre Casual dining
Founded 1955
Headquarters near Norcross, Georgia, USA
Products Food service
Revenue $1.1 Billion (2012)
Parent Waffle House, Inc.
Website wafflehouse.com

Waffle House Inc. is a restaurant chain with over 2100 locations found in 25 states in the United States.[1] Most of the locations are in the Southern United States, where the chain remains a regional cultural icon.[2] Waffle House is headquartered in unincorporated Gwinnett County, Georgia,[3] near Norcross.[4]

History[edit]

The first Waffle House opened on Labor Day weekend, 1955 at 2719 East College Avenue in Avondale Estates, Georgia.[1] That restaurant was conceived and founded by Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner, who both continue to own a majority of the company.[1] Rogers started in the restaurant business as a short-order cook in 1947, at the Toddle House in New Haven, Connecticut.[5] By 1949, he became a regional manager[2] with the now-defunct Memphis-based Toddle House chain, and moved to Atlanta. He met Tom Forkner when buying a house from him in Avondale Estates.[1]

Rogers' concept was to marry the speed of fast food with table service and around the clock availability. He told Forkner "...You build a restaurant and I’ll show you how to run it,"’ recalls Tom Forkner.[2]

A Waffle House restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama.

Forkner suggested naming it Waffle House, as waffles were the most profitable item on the 16-item menu.[2] 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.[2]

Rogers continued to work with Toddle House, and to avoid conflict of interest sold his interest to Forkner in 1956.[5] 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.[5] 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[2] and slowly grew to 27 stores by the late 1960s, before growth accelerated.[2] The company is privately held and doesn’t disclose annual sales figures, but says they serve 2% of the eggs used in the nation's food service industry.[2] 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.[2]

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 West, Florida, and as far to the east as the Atlantic Ocean at many points along the East Coast between Florida and North Carolina.

In 2007, Waffle House re-purchased 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 and is occasionally open to the public.[6]

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.[7]

Waffle & Steak[edit]

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

For years, Waffle House was known as "Waffle & Steak" in Indiana due to another chain of restaurants owning the rights to the Waffle House name in the state.[8] Reportedly, the original Indiana Waffle House chain has started using the name "Sunshine Cafe".[9] However, the d/b/a for "Sunshine Cafe" belongs to "Waffle House Greenwood Inc.", established in 1981.[10] 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.[10] (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 & Steak restaurants all adopted the "Waffle House" moniker, bringing the entire chain under the iconic name.[10]

Controversy[edit]

Race relations[edit]

As of January 2005, over 20 complaints of racial discrimination[2] have been filed against the chain within federal courts. The plaintiffs allege a pattern and practice of discrimination and violations of federal civil rights laws. Servers were alleged to have on numerous occasions refused service to African American patrons; served African American customers unsanitary food; addressed African American customers with racial epithets and slurs; and become verbally abusive when asked to wait on minority patrons.[11] In August 2005, a Virginia Waffle House operator settled the lawsuits filed by 12 black, Asian-American and Hispanic patrons.[citation needed]

Despite numerous complaints of racial discrimination, co-founder Joe Rogers maintains that his stores have long held a policy of nondiscrimination, citing the chain's recent expansion as a possible reason for the rise in discriminatory behavior. [12]

Dateline NBC investigation[edit]

Apparently inspired by a serious Salmonella problem in 2003 at a Chili's location in Vernon Hills, Illinois,[13] and by four deaths in 1993 from E. coli in undercooked hamburger at a Jack in the Box,[14] the Dateline NBC television news magazine in 2004 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.[15] 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.[16]

Cultural icon[edit]

A Waffle House located in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Much as other open-all-night eateries have (including White Castle, Krystal, Denny's and Krispy Kreme), Waffle House has developed into a cultural icon. 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, even Web sites and Internet newsgroups that breathlessly post late-breaking developments. With more than 1700 locations in 25 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. And yet the Waffle House is so pervasive it's invisible. It doesn't advertise; it hides in plain sight.[17]

Waffle House is called the "low-rent roadside cafe featuring waffles" in the 1996 romantic comedy movie Tin Cup,[18] and is also shown in the 2006 film ATL. The restaurant is also mentioned in the lyrics of the hit song "The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang. It is also shown in the movie Due Date when the main character is allergic to waffles, even though he picked the restaurant of choice. On the August 15, 2011 episode of WWE Raw, wrestler CM Punk was referred to by fellow wrestler Kevin Nash as looking like "a short order cook from Waffle House" during a promo, which CM Punk replied "Hey, I like Waffle House. I don't know what you got against Waffle House." This has spawned a number of internet memes associating the wrestler with Waffle House and his persona of being the voice of the common man.[19]

The chain's restaurants almost always have a jukebox which plays 45 rpm singles[citation needed]. Often the entire first column of selections and much of the second have songs about Waffle House and its food. Many of the songs are written and/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.[20]

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.[21]

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). Recently, the option of "country" was added for hashbrowns with sausage gravy on them.[22]

Disaster recovery[edit]

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Waffle House is one of the top four corporations, along with Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and Lowe's, for disaster response.[23] Waffle House has an extensive disaster management plan with on-site and portable generators and pre-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.[24] 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.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Waffle House history
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Waffle House still dishin’ diner food at 50
  3. ^ "Contact Us." Waffle House. Retrieved on November 27, 2012. "5986 Financial Drive Norcross, GA. 30071"
  4. ^ Woods, Mark. "If this is what it gets to, it's bad." The Florida Times-Union. May 3, 2009. Retrieved on May 19, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 24, 2004
  6. ^ Macdonald, Mary (2007-07-12). "Waffle House whips up a sizzling museum". Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  7. ^ Collier, Joe Guy (2009-08-05). "Bankrupt Waffle House franchisee draws bids". Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). 
  8. ^ The NecroKonicon
  9. ^ Bomp
  10. ^ a b c Indiana Corporations search
  11. ^ http://m.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2005/01/17/daily15.html?page=all&r=full
  12. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20070102001728/http://www.wafflehouse.com/AJC.pdf
  13. ^ Salmonella at Chili's
  14. ^ Jack in the Box deaths
  15. ^ Dateline NBC report
  16. ^ Waffle House responds to Dateline
  17. ^ Arts & Leisure: The Mysterious, Mundane Magic of Waffle House
  18. ^ Tin Cup script
  19. ^ WWE "Raw: CM Punk interrupts Kevin Nash's explanation about his actions at SummerSlam" | Video | August 15, 2011
  20. ^ http://www.wafflehouse.com/your-house/waffle-house-records
  21. ^ Waffle House dresses up for Valentine's Day – al.com
  22. ^ Waffle House menu/placemat
  23. ^ a b "How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time". Wall Street Journal. September 1, 2011. 
  24. ^ "What Do Waffles Have to Do with Risk Management?". EHS Today. July 6, 2011. 

External links[edit]