Do You Have a Waffle House Strategy?

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect


Story: How bad is Hurricane Michael? (A category 4 storm with sustained 150+ mph winds). Waffle House reportedly closed down 30 restaurants in the storm’s path for the foreseeable future. That’s a WOW! Why? Waffle House, the 24/7 comfort-food chain, is notable for keeping the doors open when hurricanes and other natural disasters strike.

With a couple thousand locations across the United States, one of the biggest risks that the Waffle House faces regarding its culture and business model is the unpredictability mother nature. And whether during a major hurricane like Katrina, or a crazy ice storm such as Snowmageddon 2014, Waffle House will go to great lengths to keep as many locations up and running (even when the power is out, roads are impassable, and all other restaurants are shut down). The Federal Emergency Management Agency even measures the severity of a storm’s damage by something called the “Waffle House Index.” When a Waffle House restaurant shuts down, it’s really bad.

Key Point: Waffle House is a great example of making culture REAL, and not just a hollow, public relations or marketing slogan. The restaurant’s “Always Open” philosophy across its 2,100 plus locations in 25 states, is a strategic and very intentional initiative. They stay open and/or rapidly re-open during disasters because they seriously and deeply plan for it. From the CEO down, they live it! Most organizations would benefit from reviewing the Waffle House Storm Playbook. Check out the following as a brief sample:

“Before the disaster: Waffle House mitigation and planning best practices:
… Every executive in the organization is trained on how to run a restaurant on the front lines so they can be dispatched to help when disaster strikes. The company has a carefully-scripted disaster recovery playbook they dutifully follow or adapt…

During a disaster: How Waffle House responds to disaster:
… When a storm is inbound, an all-hands-on-deck alert goes out, disaster response ‘jump teams’ organize, and important resources and manpower are staged so they can be dispatched quickly when needed….

…Waffle House ships generators and gas supplies to affected locations to power the stores, to keep food from spoiling and systems running…

Revise and improve:
… The organization analyzes what worked and what didn’t, then further refines the disaster recovery playbook so they can better respond the next time around…”

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Do you know your organization’s disaster playbook? What would you be required to do in an emergency? Is it written down? You may want to visit Waffle House’s plan as an inspiration.
  2. What is your personal family’s disaster playbook? What would you and loved ones do if suddenly there was no internet, power, mobile phones, food/water disruption? Any of the above?
  3. The following is a takeaway comment regarding Waffle House: “When disaster strikes, you’ll feel the heat during the crisis, your brain might get scattered, and you’ll likely feel smothered by the pressure. But having a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place in advance will have your organization covered, allowing you to better respond to whatever life throws at you.”

No waffling in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: That takeaway from Waffle House is especially clever. For those unfamiliar with the restaurant, “scattered,” “smothered,” and “covered” are just a few of the popular ways people can order their hashbrowns. Not unlike its food, a well-lit Waffle House offers comfort for thousands of customers in hurricane prone regions, and the company clearly gets it. I don’t know about you, but for my company’s safety, I rushed through a 5-part required online seminar that I passed in about 15 minutes. It’s likely a lot of us can improve our own disaster playbooks. If at all possible, hash one out at your local Waffle House.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis