WAFFLE HOUSE TELLS ALL!
January 21st, 2015
Ever wonder how Waffle House feels about Waffle House’s reputation, all things smothered, and the best of the worst happenings there? Well, thanks to Pat Warner, VP of Culture, we’ve got all the answers! Get ready for all of Waffle House’s secrets to be revealed! And to see a few of these stories play out in The Waffle Palace!
Q. It’s not just folks leaving the bars that show up during nontraditional breakfast hours for some breakfast food. Why do you think so many continue to call Waffle House the number one 24/7 eatery?
A. It all goes to our consistency and letting each restaurant take on its own personality. We have production systems where the waffle or patty melt you get in Atlanta is the same as you get in Austin. However, we realize we are in the people business and we want to let our people shine. While the food is consistent, we want each restaurant to have a personality. That is driven by the people on both sides of the counter – our Associates and Customers.
Q. Just like in The Waffle Palace, 3 AM is an interesting time at Waffle House. What has been the most memorable happening at Waffle House during these late night hours?
A. Being open 24 hours, you see a lot. I think most of the memorable happenings revolve around celebrities coming in late night. We had Kenny Chesney come in after a concert to a restaurant full of fans. He jumped on the grill and started cooking for them. After winning his second Masters, Bubba Watson came into an Augusta restaurant for his grilled cheese sandwich. Chris Rock stopped in recently while in Atlanta promoting his movie. The list goes on and on and on. One of the more memorable happenings is captured in The Waffle Palace and that is when Kid Rock came by to visit. Although his late night visit was national news, I like the fact that a few months later he came back to Waffle House, signed autographs for a couple of hours and raised $12,000 for a local shelter.
Q. Waffle House offers more than just food, especially after midnight. With entertainment and people-watching abound, is there a certain character that you’ve heard of that provided limitless amusement?
A. Well, we like to call it “Dinner and a Show.” We cook the dinner or breakfast, and our customers usually put on the show. I like to be at our Centennial Olympic Park restaurant when Dragon Con is in town. Talk about a people-watching paradise! Also, being in New Orleans during Mardi Gras is another people-watching opportunity.
Q. Some diners may have shied away from the attention of people driving cars through restaurants, rock stars behaving badly, or robberies gone a little awry, but not Waffle House. You all have embraced the negative, positive, and well, the strange. Do you think this unpretentious, straight forward, take-me-as-I-am attitude is what keeps everyone gravitating back to that black and yellow sign?
A. Our approach is that we are a 24-hour restaurant and things happen, we fix it and move on. I do think that take-me-as-I-am attitude endears us with our customers. The best example is the Kid Rock incident. Many companies would have gone into crisis mode and tried to get the story to go away. Instead, after some of the dust settled, we invited him back to another restaurant to do a charity event. It took a negative story and turned it into a positive.
Q. With late night eating, Waffle House has both the sweet tooth and the salty covered. What is the ratio between those who want those fluffy pecan waffles and those who want something smothered, covered, and scattered?
A. Hashbrowns edge out waffles as more popular on the menu. Coffee is by far the most popular item followed by hashbrowns and then waffles.
Q. Speaking of those famous hash browns, where did the lingo come from? And which seems to be the favorite of all the options?
A. Well, first of all like Beyoncé, Prince and Cher, our hashbrowns are epic celebrities where they are just called one word “hashbrowns” not “hash browns.” The toppings for hashbrowns evolved and really came from our customers. Back in the 1980s customers started asking for them to be scattered on the grill. Later we noticed more and more orders with onions and cheese. So in 1984 we put “scattered, smothered and covered” on the menu as an option for hashbrowns. And since then we’ve added toppings based on what we see our customers order. There is no big focus group or surveys, our hashbrowns have evolved organically based on how our customers order them. And yes, “Scattered, Smothered and Covered” is still the customer’s favorite.