Joe Rogers, Co-Founder of Waffle House, Dies at 97
Waffle House was created in 1955 out of two men’s desires to feed the tired and hungry — a sort-of Statue of Liberty of pancakes and waffles. Now, more than six decades later, Joe Rogers, 97, co-founder of Waffle House, has died.
The Tennessee native began his business venture with friend and fellow National Guardsman Tom Forkner, now 99, after the two shared a simple meal of turnip greens, fatback, cornbread, and coffee with an elderly couple while on duty.
“I can't recall a better meal," Rogers was known to say, according to AJC.
In the following decades, Waffle House became a Southern staple known for dependably cheap breakfast food available 24 hours a day. The chain’s bright yellow signage is instantly recognizable along highways across the South, and it now operates 1,900 restaurant locations.
Rogers was known as the “people person” of the business partnership, and although he retired in the 1970s, he continued to visit and inspect Waffle House locations up until just a few years ago.
“My father genuinely loved every customer who walked into a Waffle House, and customers immediately understood that,” Joe Rogers Jr., current chairman of Waffle House Inc., said in a press release. “The customer always came first for him, and he made sure the customer came first for everyone who worked with him.”
Rogers was also known for taking good care of his employees.
"Most of our waitresses have hard lives," he said in a 2004 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "A lot of them have a bunch of kids at home, and maybe their husbands don't have good jobs. We can't solve all their problems, but we can listen to them."
Rogers is survived by his wife of 74 years, Ruth Jolley Rogers.