- The Waffle House's always-open policy provides joy to many travelers, but the company's efficacy in enforcing the policy has gained renowned as an index for the level by which a storm affects supply chains, Five Thirty Eight recently reported.
- The unofficial Waffle House Index was created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2004 amid the destruction of Hurricane Charley. The theory was that, by looking at the restaurant's level of service, FEMA could map where the hurricane had caused the greatest devastation.
- The restaurant makes it easy to track, too, as it employs a stoplight color code for its level of service. Red means closed, yellow means a limited menu. As the code reflects menu, not staffing, it also indicates the accessibility of power, transportation and supply infrastructure in the region.
The Waffle House is a case study of disaster preparedness as an excellent example of preparation, cooperation and organization within its supply chain. Rain, snow or hurricane, the Waffle House will make every effort to fulfill its always-on promise to consumers, and almost as a reward or recognition, it even has its own unofficial index.
How the restaurant achieves this goal is just as important as why, however, with the many reports on the index providing insight as to its "secret sauce."
Preparation and communication at every level are of utmost importance. Disaster preparedness cards and instructions are issued to every employee in areas prone to environmental disaster, where the staff subsequently organizes itself in a dependency hierarchy: who must leave due to location and/or family needs versus who can stay and work, and for how long. And on the off chance that the staff drops below a sustainable level, emergency workers remain on call for special storm scenarios.
In addition, the restaurant has works in congress with its suppliers to maintain a nearby warehouse stocked with an abundance of food — the yellow zone non-perishables — to see it through at least a week of wreckage conditions. This is an especially effective use of the supply chain, one from which other convenience-oriented businesses could learn.
In other words, the Waffle House has a plan in place at every level of its staff to ensure it will not close and keep customers well-fed. From the headquarters to the warehouse provider and servers, each member of the supply chain knows their role and responsibilities both before and after the storm. Further, the company has visibility into the operating status of each of its stores.
The Waffle House shows disaster preparedness, whether it be a warehouse fire or a hurricane, is just as much about having a plan to ensure operations run smoothly before the event as the company's ability to respond to disruption after the event.