waffle house
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

Here's What the Waffle House Index Says About Houston Right Now

When a Waffle House closes, it’s a bad sign
waffle house
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Waffle House has announced via Twitter that as of Aug. 31, 34 of their Houston locations were open while six remained closed. The chain operates 24/7 and is famous for staying open during natural disasters — so when one closes, it considered significant.

The chain's reactions to natural disasters has given rise to the so-called Waffle House Index — an unofficial metric (the term was coined by former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate) to judge the severity of hurricane or other catastrophic event. According to the index,green means that the restaurant is serving its full menu and has electricity. Yellow indicates a limited menu and limited power. Red means that the Waffle House in a given area is closed — indicating that the disaster is severe.

The chain’s external affairs director, Pat Warner, told FOX Business that the initial reason for closing stores in the Houston area was because of access issues, not flooding. “We’re able to check in on our restaurants remotely and those restaurants have power, they’re in good shape,” Warner said. “It’s just getting people to them right now.”

Other locations are working to provide hot meals and warm shelter for Harvey victims. According to Yahoo Finance, “jump teams” are also present. These are small groups of unit operators from outside the hurricane zone who rush in to keep stores up and running. After a natural disaster, demand for food is normally high while supplies are low, and local employees may not be able to make it to work if they’re dealing with their own storm damage.

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“It does help to bring operators from outside so it relieves [local employees] so they can focus on family,” Warner told Yahoo. One customer in Pearland, Texas, has even hopped behind the counter to lend a helping hand. You can read about the Waffle House Index and more in the 10 things you didn’t know about Waffle House