Waffle House stays open no matter what, and the Waffle House Index represents their Red Thread. Even though this chain of southern restaurants is committed to keeping their doors open, there are times when a disaster or national emergency makes that impossible. But this is where the Waffle House Index comes into play.
Because Waffle House is so good at staying open, the people who manage emergency and crisis response started looking at the status of restaurants in a given area to determine how bad the situation is looking. By looking at which locations were closed, serving a limited menu, they have a “Waffle House Index” for where services have been most affected.
Waffle House’s Goal is that they’re always open, but the Problem of Perspective is that it’s not just about what you do when you’re open, it’s how you get to be open in the first place. That leads to their Truth: that people are the measure of success. Not just their customers, but the people who work for them. That’s why their entire mechanism (their Change and Actions) focuses on people: staging backup staff from less affected areas, making key information readily accessible, and having processes in place so their employees know what to do no matter what happens.
– What do waffles have to do with the Red Thread? Waffle House and the Waffle House Index. That’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com. If you’re a fan, please do me a favor, like and subscribe.
Waffle House Index? You don’t even know what the Waffle House is. Well, if you live in the American South, you just may, because the Waffle House is a chain of restaurants that’s been around since the 1950s. They’re famous for, not just their good food at good prices, but for being open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Now this always open piece has given rise to two things. The first, an urban legend that says that there aren’t locks on the doors. That’s not true because occasionally Waffle Houses have to close in the face of disaster or national emergencies. And that’s where the Waffle House Index came into play.
Because the Waffle House is so good at staying open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the people who manage the emergency response started to pay attention. They looked at to what extent the Waffle Houses were able to stay open in a particular area affected by a disaster. If a Waffle House was closed, that was not a good sign. If it was operating under a limited menu, it meant that the area was definitely affected, but that certain things could still get through. And, of course, if it was green, then everything is just operating at fairly close to normal.
So, the more Waffle Houses that were closed or limited, the worse they could kind of use as a proxy for how bad the disaster was. It’s called the Waffle House Index. Now, how is it that Waffle House got to this point of helping Emergency Management officials determine how severe a disaster was? Well, it all comes down to the why’s behind their why. The Waffle House operating system, the Waffle House Red Thread.
Now, their Goal for their audiences, the goal that they help their audiences and their customers satisfied is good food, good prices, always open. Now, the Problem of Perspective, what they see that other folks didn’t see is that it’s not just about the food or the prices or being open. It’s really about the people, that their perspective is that the people are what matters.
And, in fact, that leads to their company Truth. The core belief in value that’s right on their website, that they measure success by one thing, people. Not just the people who come and eat at their restaurants, but the people who work for them. That’s why their entire mechanism for responding to and preparing for disasters and for just making sure that they’re ready to be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, focuses on people.
Now, in a disaster, they do a number of different things. So, first, they position people near enough to the area that’s going to be affected. Employees from other areas can come in and work at the affected area’s Waffle House. That way the employees who are affected by the disaster can go take care of their homes and their communities.
They also do things like making sure that every employee has a key fob with important information on it. That way, they’ve got all the things that they need in order to answer questions, get additional supplies.
They also make sure that they pay attention to the supply chain. Beyond where do they get their particular food supplies, they’re looking at how to position supplies nearby. So in a time of disaster, they can get supplies to their restaurants quickly. And that leads to one more thing that they do. They have a manual in every Waffle House that walks employees through exactly how to operate. It’s based on the supplies and the conditions that they’re in. They make sure that they have nonperishable items close by and they’ve got instructions on how to prepare them.
All of this comes because they’re not just focused on how can we make the most money by staying open. Instead, it’s understanding that staying open all the time requires people. It requires people who are prepared to continue to deliver that great food, great prices, always open any time. And that, I’d say, is a pretty fascinating Red Thread. And one worthy of a Waffle House Index. That’s this week’s episode of Find the Red Thread. If you’re a fan or are looking to help find your own Red Thread, reach out to me a TamsenWebster.com/contact.