Need Breakfast During a Natural Disaster?

Need breakfast during a natural disaster? Look no further than your local Waffle House. During the recent Hurricane Irene, the Waffle House in Weldon, North Carolina, was serving sausage and biscuits the morning after Irene hit this small town, and this was even without power. It just goes to show you what a good Crisis Management Plan can do.

Just ask Panos Kouvelis, Ph.D., Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management and director of the Olin’s Boeing Center for Technology, Information, and Manufacturing. He instructs his students about the way Waffle House handles crisis management, especially natural disasters.

As for Waffle House’s supply chain, “They know immediately which stores are going to be affected, and they call their employees to know who can show up and who cannot,” Kouvelis said, according to a recent article. Kouvelis went on to say, “They have temporary warehouses where they can store food, and, most importantly, they know they can operate without a full menu. This is a great example of a company that has learned from the past and developed an excellent emergency plan.”

Waffle House looks at it as a way to build customer goodwill. They are not saving money by staying open during trying times, such as Hurricane Irene, but see the secret to their success as serving good food and always being open and available. In the long run, this leads to increased customer faithfulness and better future profits.

Now compare that to New York City — a corporate entity within itself and, as some would say, the nation’s financial capitol — and the city’s preparation for Hurricane Irene. Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s answer to Irene was to tell residents and businesses in low-lying areas to evacuate and stay out of the way so that emergency personnel could handle real emergencies. In the end, they shut down the city for nothing more than a glorified rainstorm.

“Either way, with no market to compete in, New York City government doesn’t worry about developing good will,” said Wall Street Journal reporter Valerie Bauerlein. “Waffle House, on the other hand, has built a marketing strategy around the goodwill gained from being open when customers are most desperate.”

During disaster, government entities oftentimes have no incentive to provide services to its constituents with no competition to drive service, and in the end, it told those which it supposedly serves to go away and come back when it was more convenient. Waffle House, on the other hand, fired up its generators and got down to the business of feeding its hungry faithful, even in the worst of conditions.

For more information about how Waffle House thrives during disasters, visit: