Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Deborah Brown.
While meteorologists help determine the force of a hurricane, Waffle House helps to determine its destruction. Yes, the same Waffle House that makes waffles. According to a Wall Street Journal article published following Hurricane Irene, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relies on two metrics to assess the damage. One is the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. The other is the Waffle House Index. According to the article:
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.
What’s impressive about Waffle House is that the company really understands the importance of crisis management. The Wall Street Journal article talks about how Waffle House has beefed up its crisis management after Hurricane Katrina. Even if the power is out and only the gas grill is working, Waffle House cooks take out the gas grill-only menus and start cooking. A business-school professor even recently named Waffle House “as one of the top four companies for disaster response, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Lowe's Cos.
We do quite a bit of crisis management work at Peppercom. And, we always tell our clients that the way a crisis is handled can positively or negatively impact the company’s reputation. Although Waffle House hardly spends any money on advertising, it “has built a marketing strategy around the goodwill gained from being open when customers are most desperate.”
A tip of my fork to Waffle House for being so prepared for natural disasters. After a hurricane or tornado, when power is out and everyone is trying to figure out when life will get back to normal, consumers – and apparently FEMA – can always count on Waffle House for a waffle or scrambled eggs with a side order of normalcy.