The Waffle House Index just hit a code red

Waffle Houses, which are historically a bellwether for disaster severity, are closing by the hundreds.

March 26, 2020

Photo: Wikipedia

Yesterday, Waffle House declared a #WaffleHouseIndexRed, reporting that 418 of its restaurants across the country had been closed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Waffle Houses are an authority in times of disaster

For years, FEMA has used Waffle Houses — which are open 24/7, 365 days a year — to informally measure disaster severity. The chain’s consistent response across its restaurants reveals which areas have been most damaged.

A Waffle House location is considered:

  • Green, it it’s open with a full menu;
  • Yellow, if it’s open but serving a limited menu;
  • Red, if it’s closed.

Usually, the Waffle House Index is used during natural disasters… 

During Hurricane Katrina, the most damaging hurricane in US history, Waffle House closed 107 locations across Louisiana and Mississippi.

In this case, many of the 418 closures were clustered in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast regions. The company said it was seeing few customers and “rapidly losing the ability to offer enough work hours” to its employees.

As of yesterday, there were still 1,574 Waffle Houses open, but if “shelter in place” orders continue across much of the US, it’s likely that Waffle House closures could continue.

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