As powerful Category 4 Hurricane Ian threatens Florida, the Waffle House restaurant chain, which prides itself on operating 24 7 days, is helping FEMA identify the hardest-hit areas with their decision on which restaurants to close.
The Waffle House Index was created in 2004 by FEMA to measure the severity of a storm or hurricane. The emergency agency says that the informal metric determines the impact of a storm and the scale of assistance needed for disaster recovery.
Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer said in an interview on Varney Co. Wednesday that they don't think about it from a PR standpoint. We're trying to make sure that our people are safe and we're doing what we can to help the communities that we serve. Three safety codes are found within the index: green, which indicates a full Waffle House menu is being served, yellow, which means there is limited food or power, and red, which means the restaurant is completely closed.
Businesses in communities are some of the biggest drivers of recovery. If stores can't open, people can go back to work. If you can go back to work, you can return to at least one piece of normal life and that little piece of normalcy can make a big difference. The restaurant chain has the ability to get back to normal faster than anyone else, according to the CEO of Waffle House. It was going to be really challenging for others in the community as well, if we were really struggling to get open, Ehmer said. Ehmer said as Hurricane Ian begins to make landfall on Florida's West Coast near Sarasota, Waffle House has decentralized management making calls on the ground regarding restaurants open or closed statuses.
I'm here outside of Tampa to help them make good decisions. Ehmer said that we try to make the best decisions we can from as close to the action. Most of our stores in harm's way are closed, from Naples and Bradenton.
The CEO said that more Florida locations could close as they plan to close by ear. The insurance company is trying to make sure that we're taking care of everybody, Ehmer said.