What is the Waffle House Index?

Learn how the national diner’s closing practices can help measure the severity of a local storm.

Yellow Waffle House sign backdropped by mountains and sky.

Just looking at the sign makes us feel more secure.

Photo by Kelly via Pexels

You know a storm is serious if the local Waffle House is closed.

That’s essentially the idea behind the Waffle House Index, an informal way of measuring the severity of a weather event. Coined by former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate after Waffle Houses remained open during a tornado in Joplin, Missouri in 2011.

If you’ve ever eaten smothered hash browns in a Waffle House while the apocalypse rages outside, you know what he’s talking about. After all, the diner — which has over 1,900 locations across the US — is known for its preparedness during natural disasters.

How does it work?

You should always listen to instructions from your local government concerning a storm. But the informal index can be a tool to determine how much a community has been impacted by a natural disaster, based on which level of service Waffle House is available to provide. Breaking it down into levels, it looks like this:

  • Green | The Waffle House is offering its full menu. The location has power and there is little or no damage.
  • Yellow | The location either lost power or is using a generator and may be running out of food, resulting in a limited menu.
  • Red |The Waffle House location is closed.

In Fugate’s words, “If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad…”

Check the Waffle House Index

The best way to determine the Waffle House Index’s status? Well, check your nearby Waffle House locations to see if they’re open. You can also see the number of closures across the nation by using this tracker.