Waffle House As Private Continuity Leader?

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Seth Noreman

What does the Waffle House do to smother, cover, chunk, dice, pepper, cap, top and country disruptions that cause most businesses to shut down?

According to the restaurant chain’s CEO Walt Ehmer, the recipe for becoming a private sector, continuity leader is pretty simple – “Show Up!”

“No matter how bad it was, the first thing that got open invariably was a Waffle House,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Craig Fugate in an address to attendees at the International Disaster Conference and Expo in New Orleans this past week. The company’s ability and resourcefulness in getting their restaurants back open after an emergency has almost become the source of legend for those in the emergency management community. It has even given birth to its own metric – the Waffle House Index.

In a January 18 presentation at the same Conference, Ehmer shared some of the continuity lessons Waffle House learned through the years:

  • get momentum going quickly after a disaster;
  • think of itself as a local business and get to know customers;
  • prepare employees before a disaster happens, with information like what to do during and after a storm; and
  • do a better job of building relationships with government.

In a recent post on this topic, Emergency Management Magazine’s Elaine Pittman highlighted just how difficult it can be to accomplish the last bullet point.

“With more than 1,600 restaurants in 25 states, working with government in advance isn’t always easy. Government rules, like curfews in disaster-impacted areas, can prevent companies from operating as efficiently as possible. “

The Waffle House is a prime leader in what we refer to at Safe America Foundation as “Reset Capacity” and we’re proud this native Georgia company is getting the recognition they deserve.

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