Waffle House and Hurricanes

After Hurricane Irene last week, you might have become more familiar with the Saffir-Simpson scale that assigns a number, from 1 to 5, for hurricane strength based on wind speed. But in today’s Wall Street Journal, I learned of another measure. It has to do with Waffle House…

Turns out that Waffle House gains goodwill from being open when customers are most desperate, and so they try to either keep their establishments open during a hurricane, or recover as soon as possible.

Per the WSJ, after Hurricane Katrina, Waffle House decided to strengthen its crisis-management processes:

Senior executives developed a manual for opening after a disaster, bulked up on portable generators, bought a mobile command center and gave employees key fobs with emergency contacts. In a recent academic paper, Panos Kouvelis, a business-school professor at Washington University in St. Louis, pegged Waffle House as one of the top four companies for disaster response, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos.

So how can you glean the intensity of a hurricane? Cue the Waffle House Index:

Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.

The article is interesting throughout.