Waffle House has opted to close hundreds of diners across the country, buckling after weeks of the chain’s executives scoffing at the precautions other brands had taken in light of the coronavirus.
The Georgia-based chain, known for enduring even in the face of hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, announced the closures via its Facebook page Tuesday. The restaurant chain will close more than 410 locations in Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia and several other states dealing with increasing cases of COVID-19. The franchise will keep 1,574 spots open, but the closures account for the greatest number of locations closed en masse in its history. There was no indication how long the spots would remain closed.
Waffle House, which was established in 1955, announced March 15 that it would keep all of its restaurants open.
“At Waffle House, we take great pride in being open to serve the communities where we work, live and raise our families,” the company said in a statement. “Our mission has been to provide an essential service in our communities during difficult times for all, including first responders and health care providers.”
The chain has established itself as the trusted place to go in disastrous times, even establishing an index that gauges the level of natural disasters. The closures represent a Waffle Index Red, and the other levels include green, for full menu and no limitations, while yellow indicates there are limited food supplies due to disaster, i.e. power outages.
Joe Rogers Jr., the 73-year-old sole board member and chairman for the nearly 2,000-restaurant chain based in Norcross, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that the takeout-only mandates across the country were “totally out of proportion.”
“American leaders have to lead people through ruinous times, but leaders don’t lead people to ruin,” he said later, warning that many large and small businesses could possibly falter due to the effects.
Most restaurants have limited their franchises to takeout only, like Chick-fil-A, but retailers including Macy’s, T.J. Maxx and dozens of malls across the country are closed the next several days to wait out the coronavirus pandemic.
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