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Hurricanes and ‘The Waffle House Index’
Weather officials work to predict and quantify the dangers of a hurricane based on wind speeds using the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.
But when assessing weather conditions and the impact on local communities, officials, media and citizens often turn to another scale with a much more recognizable brand name attached to it – The Waffle House Index.
What is the Waffle House Index?
The index was born out of a Federal Emergency Management Agency blog post dating back to 2011. In the post, FEMA notes a community’s Waffle House functions as a good indicator of how businesses and residents are handling dangerous weather and its aftermath.
Here’s how FEMA breaks it down: “If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red.”
An association with devastating weather events might not seem like an ideal look for most organizations. But Waffle House has incorporated the connection into its larger brand and culture. It works to reopen locations as quickly as possible and even has “no water” and “no power” menus.
The efforts pay off in positive marketing and goodwill. Every time a natural disaster looms, Waffle House finds itself in the news for its commitment to customers and communities.
Waffle House isn’t the only brand to take pride in staying open during inclement weather and helping communities recover. Farther north, Wawa often serves as an epicenter during snow storms and bad weather. Locations stay open to offer food and fuel to emergency responders and provide milk, eggs and other pantry staples to residents.
Ultimately, these brands offer only a part of what it takes for communities to recover from devastating weather events. But with the right message and actions, they can support the determined efforts of individuals and families to rebuild and move forward.
Making the Most of it
Waffle House’s marketing team has leaned into the association. Late last week, the brand tweeted photos of workers monitoring the hurricane from its “Storm Center” as well as employees serving first responders as the storm raged on. It also tweeted a more lighthearted message directly at Hurricane Florence.