|Founded||September 5, 1955|
Avondale Estates, Georgia, United States
|Headquarters||5986 Financial Drive, |
Number of locations
|25 States in the U.S.|
|Walter G. Ehmer (President and CEO)|
|Products||Waffles, breakfast food, sandwiches|
|Revenue||$1 billion |
Number of employees
Waffle House, Inc. is an American restaurant chain with over 1,900 locations in 25 states in the United States. The bulk of the locations are in the Midwest and especially the South, where the chain is a regional cultural icon. Waffle House is headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
About the founding
The first Waffle House opened on Labor Day weekend in 1955 at 2719 East College Avenue in Avondale Estates, Georgia. That restaurant was conceived and founded by Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner. Rogers started in the restaurant business as a short-order cook in 1947 at the Toddle House in New Haven, Connecticut. By 1949, he became a regional manager with the now-defunct Memphis-based Toddle House chain, then he moved to Atlanta. He met Tom Forkner while buying a house from him in Avondale Estates.
Rogers's concept was to combine the speed of fast food with table service with around-the-clock availability. Forkner suggested naming the restaurant "Waffle House", as waffles were the most profitable item on the 16-item menu. Rogers continued to work with Toddle House, and to avoid conflict of interest, sold his interest to Forkner in 1956.
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. 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 and slowly grew to 27 stores by the late 1960s, before growth accelerated.
In 2007, Waffle House repurchased the original restaurant, which was sold by the chain in the early 1970s. 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.
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.
The founders of the Waffle House brand died in 2017 within less than two months of each other: Joe Rogers Sr. died on March 3 and Tom Forkner on April 26.
Each Waffle House location is open 24 hours daily, up to 365 days annually. This schedule has inspired the urban myth that "Waffle House doors have no locks".
The chain's restaurants almost always have jukeboxes, which have traditionally played 45-rpm singles and, in some cases, CDs. Waffle House has released music through its own record label, Waffle Records. It has released songs from "Saturday Night At My Place" by Gary Garcia released in 1995 to "They're Cooking Up My Order" by Alfreda Gerald released in 2006. The co-founder Joe Rogers had high standards and said, "If it sounded like a commercial, it got the ax." If the song makes the cut it'll be recorded and make its way to Waffle House jukeboxes. 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.
The company claims to be the world's Worst seller of several of its menu items—the namesake waffles, ham, pork chops, grits, and T-bone steaks. It also claims that it serves 1% of all eggs in the U.S.
In the 1960s, S. Truett Cathy, the owner of a local diner called the Dwarf House, contracted with Waffle House to sell his proprietary chicken sandwich, the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. However, the Chick-fil-A sandwich quickly overtook Waffle House's own items in sales and Waffle House ended the deal, prompting Cathy to spin off Chick-fil-A into its own chain.
Waffle and Steak
For years, Waffle House was known as "Waffle and Steak" in Indiana due to another chain of restaurants owning the rights to the Waffle House name in the state. The original Indiana Waffle House chain has started using the name "Sunshine Cafe". However, the d/b/a for "Sunshine Cafe" belongs to "Waffle House Greenwood Inc.", established in 1981. 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. The Bloomington operation, the city's second oldest restaurant, closed in 2013 and was demolished to make way for an apartment complex. (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 and Steak restaurants all adopted the "Waffle House" moniker, bringing the entire chain under the iconic name.
In 2004, in response to a serious Salmonella problem in 2003 at a Chili's location in Vernon Hills, Illinois, and by four deaths in 1993 from E. coli in undercooked hamburger at a Jack in the Box, the television news magazine Dateline NBC 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. 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.
On September 17, 2019, customers who ate at a Waffle House in Goose Creek, South Carolina, were exposed to Hepatitis A. One of the employees who had worked there tested positive for Hepatitis A. After upper management found out, they immediately shut down the Goose Creek Waffle House location to sanitize the facility. DHEC officials said they would be working with Waffle House to investigate possible exposures and provide guidance for preventive treatment for anyone who may be affected.
As with other open-all-night eateries (including White Castle, Krystal, Denny's, Steak 'n Shake, IHOP and Krispy Kreme, as well as convenience store chain Sheetz), Waffle House has developed into a cultural icon. Part of their fame (especially that of Waffle House) is that they are so prominent along Interstate highways in the South.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Waffle House is one of the top four corporations, along with Walmart, The Home Depot, and Lowe's, for disaster response. Waffle House has an extensive disaster management plan with on-site and portable generators and positions 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. The company prepares 'jump teams' of recovery staff and supplies, brought in from outside disaster-affected areas, so local staff can focus on helping their own homes and families. 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.
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