The Waffle House Index Is A Very Real Thing… But What Is It?

A building with a sign on the front

No, it’s not just a way to gauge how drunk you were while trying to order your food at 3AM after one too many tequila shots.

It’s actually a legitimate tool used by the federal government courtesy of Waffle House.

With Hurricane Ida bearing down on Louisiana right now, and showing a track that’s predicted to continue across much of the south, for the 24/7 breakfast restaurant, that means one thing: It’s time for executives to head to the situation room.

The Waffle House Index, as it’s referred to, is so legit as a measurement for severe weather, in fact, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency actually uses it as a means to assess natural disasters.

I learned recently that this term was apparently a southern thing, but it is indeed a very real tool that former FEMA director Craig Fugate came up with back in 2011, who’s a Florida native. The conversation on whether or not Florida’s actually a part of the south is a debate for another article.

Actually, I’ll go ahead and settle it now: it’s not.

But, I digress.

Craig came up with the theory based solely on the fact that Waffle House will do whatever it takes to stay open during times of crisis. Waffle Houses team of executives also use extremely accurate high-tech weather monitors and tracking devices to figure out what to do about closing themselves.

And, with so many hurricanes coming through different parts of the south every year, he told the New York Times that whether or not the restaurant remained open, closed, or modified their menu and hours became an actual (unofficial) measuring stick used by the federal government:

 “Waffle House has a very simple operation philosophy: get open. They have a corporate philosophy that if there is a hurricane or a storm, they try and get their stores open.

It don’t matter if they don’t have power, it don’t matter if you don’t have gas. They have procedures that if they can get a generator in there, they’ll get going.

They’ll make coffee with bottled water.” 

So, it’s not just a good place to go after a night of binge-drinking or to cure your next-day hangover, it’s actually an indicator of how severe a storm really is.

For example, early in 2020, they closed 365 locations due to Coronavirus, and that’s when many of us knew how bad things were about to get.

Here’s a look at the criteria they use:

“If a store is open, your community has been spared.

If the store is open but has a limited menu, you’ve probably gotten some damage.

If the store is completely closed, you’re in a disaster zone.”

With Hurricane Ida making landfall in Port Fourchon, Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina today, many are turning to their favorite Waffle House as a way to assess the severity themselves:

Basically, if your local WaHo closes, shit’s gettin’ serious.

I mean, they have a legitimate war room to track weather and monitor different storms:

Prayers for everyone in the path of Hurricane Ida over the next few days.

Y’all stay safe out there.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock