Waffle House’s director of food safety Larry Sigler, who leads crisis management at Waffle House, knows what it takes for a restaurant to prepare for natural disasters: a good plan.

Whether during hurricanes Katrina, Dorian, Harvey, to name just a few, the famously 24-7-365 restaurant is so good a keeping its lights on – and its griddles hot – that even FEMA uses what it calls the Waffle House Index as an unofficial measurement of disaster severity. “It’s not a money maker for us. We do it for our customers,” says Sigler. Whether they need a hot meal or just a place to charge their cell phone, he says they simply expect Waffle House to be open. 

But staying open is no fluke. Sigler says it takes assiduous pre-planning with suppliers, building relationships with local authorities and helping employees are what really keep the syrup flowing. The home office in Atlanta annually updates a Waffle House Storm Playbook incorporating lessons learned, coordinates jump teams to assist stores in disaster areas, even sets up an ad hoc storm center to monitor storms during a disaster.  Additionally, as the chain plans new stores, it is incorporating safety factors, particularly suited to the region where it's located.

The biggest differentiator, however: corporate says it defers to executives in the field to make decisions on the ground.

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