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Disaster at Waffle House

Feb 22, 2012 • Businesses, Demand, Supply, and Markets, Economic Humor, Thinking Economically • 255 Views    No Comments

By Mira Korber, guest blogger.

Just last week, a desperate pit-stop at the iconic southern restaurant chain, Waffle House, proved the very worst of my life’s infrequent fast-food exploits. Mid 1,300 mile road-trip, the black letters on yellow signage hailed the only game in town open after 10pm, so — being a northerner myself — I decided to see what this waffle thing was all about. At any rate, my “T-bone steak with eggs” was more steak tartar with yellow and white goop, but I promise not to disintegrate any further into my anti-Waffle House tirade, because the company’s economic relevance is far more interesting.

Apparently, the Wall Street Journal’s “Waffle-House Index” is a term referring to (non-gastronomic) natural disasters. With over 1,600 locations in the South, people have come to rely on the status of their nearby Waffle House to measure the severity of weather crises. The company’s trademark is its 24-hour operation, so when locals see a closed restaurant, they know things are pretty bad. The official Waffle-House Index is conveniently color-coded to signify just how problematic a disaster may be.

The shining beacon of 24 hour goodness since 1955, Waffle House ranks among the best disaster recipes and disaster indicators. Why, it’s even a great venue for disaster to strike. Read this excellent NY Times article about a recent string of shootings at Georgia Waffle Houses. A loyal customer even says she’ll keep returning to Waffle House even though there might be the minor risk of gunpoint robbery.

And, perhaps needless to say, this article is not mentioned on the “In the News” page on the Waffle House site.

The Economic Lesson

A true port-in-the-storm, Waffle House competes through its dependable image. To differentiate itself from other fast-food and low-end restaurant competitors, Waffle House allows you, the ravenous customer, to chow down anytime hunger strikes. Regardless of its food quality or crime rates, it’s open, reliable, and will feed your grumbling stomach.  24/7, stop in to Waffle House for a bite, which is more than you can say for a neighboring Olive Garden or Arby’s.

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