The Waffle House closed hundreds of locations as the spread of coronavirus has shut down businesses, schools and major events across the globe. After initially announcing the closure of 365 locations nationwide, the company upped the number to 418 on Wednesday (March 25).
The announcement comes weeks after a Waffle House employee was diagnosed with COVID-19. After testing positive for the disease, Joey Camp, went into quarantine for several days and was recently cleared to return home by the Georgia Department of Health.
“We are trying really hard to provide hours and jobs for people, but when there [are] no customers, it is hard to continue for a long period of time,” Waffle House President and CEO Walt Ehmer told Atlanta’s WSB-TV. Ehmer noted that the popular restaurant chain is taking the pandemic very seriously and made adjustments after the employee’s diagnoses.
Founded in Atlanta in 1955, the Waffle House boasts more than 2,000 locations that rarely close. The company created a Waffle House Index in 2004, in wake of hurricanes and other natural disasters. FEMA reportedly uses the Waffle House Index to gage the severity of disasters in certain areas.
Although more than 1500 Waffle House locations remain open, there’s a possibility that more locations could close. The company was down 70 percent in revenue, according to Ehmer. If the number drops further, 40,000 Waffle House employees could end up losing their jobs. Elmer however is working to see if some of the locations can reopen their dining rooms at a reduced customer capacity.
“We are going to try and keep them open as long as we possibly can.”
#WaffleHouseIndexRed: 418 Waffle House restaurants closed. 1,574 open.
— Waffle House (@WaffleHouse) March 25, 2020