Waffle House

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Waffle House, Inc.
Private
Industry Restaurants
Genre Casual dining
Founded 1955 (1955)
Avondale Estates, Georgia, U.S.
Headquarters Norcross, Georgia, US
Products Food service
Website wafflehouse.com

Waffle House, Inc., is an American restaurant chain with more than 2,100 locations in 25 states in the United States.[1] Most of the locations are in the South, where the chain is a regional cultural icon.[2] Waffle House is headquartered in an unincorporated part of Gwinnett County, Georgia,[3] near Norcross.[4]

History[edit]

Plaque commemorating the first Waffle House restaurant.

The first Waffle House opened on Labor Day weekend in 1955 at 2719 East College Avenue in Avondale Estates, Georgia.[1] That restaurant was conceived and founded by Joe Rogers Sr. (1919-2017) and Tom Forkner (1918-2017).[1][5] Rogers started in the restaurant business as a short-order cook in 1947 at the Toddle House in New Haven, Connecticut.[6] By 1949, he became a regional manager[2] 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.[1]

The first Waffle House restaurant in Avondale Estates, now a museum. Note the "syrupy" font on the sign as it was originally.

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

Forkner suggested naming the restaurant Waffle House, as waffles were the most profitable item on the 16-item menu. 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. 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.[6] 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. The company is privately held and does not disclose annual sales figures, but says they serve 2% of the eggs used in the nation's food-service industry. 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 Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

In 2007, Waffle House repurchased 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.[7]

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.[8]

The founders of the Waffle House brand died within two months of each other: Joe Rodgers Sr died on March 3, 2017 and Tom Forkner on April 26, 2017.[9]

Operations[edit]

Waffle from the Waffle House

The chain's restaurants almost always have jukeboxes, which have traditionally played 45-rpm singles[10] and, in some cases, CDs. Often, the entire first column of selections and much of the second column would 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.[11] In 2012-13, most (if not all) of the locations have removed the 45-rpm/CD jukeboxes in favor of digital touchscreen jukeboxes, which, at Waffle House restaurants, still feature all of the original Waffle House songs.[citation needed]

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.[12]

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). The option of "country" was added for hashbrowns with sausage gravy on them.[citation needed]

Waffle & Steak[edit]

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

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.[13] Reportedly, the original Indiana Waffle House chain has started using the name "Sunshine Cafe".[14] 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.[15] The Bloomington operation, noted for being the city's second oldest restaurant, closed in 2013 and was demolished to make way for an apartment complex.[16] (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.[15]

Food safety[edit]

In 2004, in response to a serious Salmonella problem in 2003 at a Chili's location in Vernon Hills, Illinois,[17] and by four deaths in 1993 from E. coli in undercooked hamburger at a Jack in the Box, [18] the television news magazine Dateline NBC in 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.[19] 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.[20]

Association with politics[edit]

Waffle House has a history of supporting conservative Republicans. In 2012 Waffle House donated $100,000 to American Crossroads, the Super-PAC founded by Karl Rove.[21] Waffle House also donated $50,000 to Restore Our Future, a Super-PAC created to boost Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid. In their home state, Waffle House has supported many of Georgia's congressional Republicans.[22]

Cultural icon[edit]

A Waffle House located in Hagerstown, Maryland

As with other open-all-night eateries (including White Castle, Krystal, Denny's, and Krispy Kreme), 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. 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, and 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. Yet the Waffle House is so pervasive, it is invisible. It does not advertise; it hides in plain sight.[23]

A Waffle House restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama

Waffle House is called the "low-rent roadside cafe featuring waffles" in the 1996 romantic comedy movie Tin Cup,[24] and is also shown in the 2006 film ATL. It is also shown in the movie Due Date, in which the main character selects that restaurant, despite being allergic to waffles. A Waffle House in Nashville was the setting for a routine by the stand-up comedian Bill Hicks.[25]

Waffle House is referenced to in popular music, as in the songs "The Bad Touch" by the Bloodhound Gang, "24 Hours" by TeeFlii, in the title of the Hootie & the Blowfish album Scattered, Smothered and Covered, and in "Welcome To Atlanta" by Jermaine Dupri.

Disaster recovery[edit]

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.[26] Waffle House has an extensive disaster management plan with on-site and portable generators and 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.[27]. The company prepares 'jump teams' of recovery staff and supplies, brought in from outside disaster-affected areas, so that 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.[26][28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "History". Waffle House. 2015-08-21. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Waffle House still dishin’ at 50 - Business - US business - Food Inc. | NBC News". MSNBC. 2005-08-15. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  3. ^ "Contact". Waffle House. 2015-08-21. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  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. ^ Sharpe, Joshua (27 April 2017). "Waffle House co-founder dies at 98, a month after business partner". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Web.archive.org December 24, 2004
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Collier, Joe Guy (2009-08-05). "Bankrupt Waffle House franchisee draws bids". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  9. ^ Sharpe, Joshua (April 27, 2017). "Waffle House co-founder dies a month after his business partner". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  10. ^ "People business". Waffle House. Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  11. ^ (Dead link) Archived May 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "Waffle House dresses up for Valentine's Day". al.com. 2009-02-13. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  13. ^ [1] Archived May 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ [2] Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ a b "Secretary of State - Business Services Division". Secure.in.gov. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  16. ^ Contrera, Jessica (2013-10-21). "The end of the Waffle House". Indiana Daily Student. Retrieved 2017-02-12. 
  17. ^ "Marler Clark announces settlement of 49 Chili's Salmonella Claims". Prweb.com. 2004-08-12. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  18. ^ "Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits - Western States (1993)". Marlerclark.com. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  19. ^ "How safe are your favorite restaurants?". Marlerclark.com. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  20. ^ "Restaurants respond to rankings - Dateline NBC - Consumer Alert | NBC News". MSNBC. 2004-09-28. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  21. ^ Murphy, Tim (2012-06-22). "Big Waffle Goes All in for American Crossroads". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2017-02-12. 
  22. ^ Jilani, Zaid (2015-04-23). "Waffle House's Diner Empire is Based on Right-Wing Politics and Ripping Off Workers". AlterNet. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  23. ^ "Arts & Leisure: Night Spot (Nashville Scene . 08-11-97)". Weeklywire.com. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  24. ^ "Tin Cup" (PDF). Dailyscript.com. Retrieved 2015-08-26. 
  25. ^ Selby, Jenn (26 February 2014). "Bill Hicks quotes: 10 classic jokes 20 years on 'It's always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it's just hilarious'". The Independent. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  26. ^ a b "How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time". Wall Street Journal. September 1, 2011. 
  27. ^ "What Do Waffles Have to Do with Risk Management?". EHS Today. July 6, 2011. 
  28. ^ If Waffle House Is Closed, It’s Time To Panic By Maryn McKenna for FiveThirtyEight DEC 6, 2016

External links[edit]