The federal government has admitted that it unofficially uses the “Waffle House Index” to judge how the populace is reacting to natural disasters in the south and east coastal areas of the country.
As Hurricane Matthew spins just off the east coast of Florida, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate noted that in 2004, he first saw a correlation to how people are reacting to disasters by tracking whether outlets of the popular Waffle House restaurant chain are closing or remaining open during extreme weather events, according to AJ.com.
“If you go to a disaster area and the Waffle House is closed that’s red. That means it’s really bad,” Fugate said.
Fugate went on to explain that a Waffle House Index yellow alert means the Waffle House is open for business but serving a restricted menu, depending on supplies and whether the location has sufficient power to go full service. And, finally, a Waffle House green status means the restaurant is open and serving its full menu.
The company has reported that all locations in evacuation areas are already scheduled to be closed. “We’re a 24-hour restaurant, so oddly enough shutting down is a big deal for us,” Pat Warner, a Waffle House vice president, told Fox News.
But the restaurant executive was quick to point out that his chain will be open for business anywhere conditions allow.
“A lot of times, especially after a big storm, we’re the only ones still open because we’ve got generators,” Warner added. “Right after storms, business is brisk. We have a lot of people come in and are only able to get their first hot meal at a Waffle House.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.