Why 400+ Waffle House closures for coronavirus is a bigger deal than you think

Today Waffle House announced that they've currently closed 418 Waffle House locations in the USA, or the MOST LOCATIONS CLOSED AT ONCE, EVER. Due to the historically extreme resiliency plans put in place by the Waffle House organization, there exists an informal measure of disaster severity in the USA called "The Waffle House Index." There are three levels of severity in this metric: Green (normal), Yellow (limited menu, crisis mode), and Red (closed for business).

The term Waffle House Index came to prominence in a Wall Street Journal article from the year 2011. Craig Fugate, Former Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, spoke about two different measures of crisis for public assessment of a hurricane. One is called the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale – that's not of much use to us at the moment.

The other measure of the severity of a crisis, the Waffle House Index, shows how seriously a crisis should be treated. Normally all Waffle Houses are in the green – they're open for business.

Waffle House locations across the United States have built a reputation for being open under harsh conditions. They want to be seen as a place where, basically no matter what, you can "still get a hot meal." In the most extreme of circumstances, a Waffle House will go yellow – they'll have a limited menu, but they'll be open.

It is extremely rare that a Waffle House will go Red. Approximately 20% of Waffle House locations in the United States is in an area where conditions are so bad, they've gone RED. They've closed entirely – past the point at which they feel it's safe to keep their doors open to serve food to citizens in crisis mode.

In a release today from representatives of Waffle House, they announced the closure of 418 locations across the USA. "We want to acknowledge the great efforts of our associates, who work hard every shift to create a safe, warm and welcoming dining experience 24 hours daily," wrote a Waffle House representative. "We are working hard to support them as we do our best to manage through this crisis."

The previous record for closed Waffle House locations was during Hurricane Irma. They closed 157 locations, and 143 of those locations were back up and running in 2 days (or less) after the end of said storm. If this is serious enough for Waffle House to close, it's serious enough for citizens of the United States to stay home and avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Stay tuned to our COVID-19 coverage and take a peek at our guide: Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources: What should I do? Who do I trust?