Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Waffle House Index and Business Continuity

There are a lot of interesting relationships out there that seem to have no connection at face value--however, if you dig deeper you find interesting connections. The guys over at are really good at finding these connections if you want to learn more. Some examples: skirt length and economic health or the amount of bacon consumed and how fat I get.

However, given that we like to talk about disasters, I'm referring to Administrator Fugate's now famous Waffle House Index. Long story short, this "index" uses Waffle House as a measure of a disasters impact on a community and it comes in three tasty levels that determine severity:
  • Green: Waffle House is open and serving a full menu = minor damage and minor impacts
  • Yellow: Waffle House is open but serving a limited menu, usually meaning the use of generators to get food into stomachs based on a limited food supply = issues with infrastructure / access and major impacts
  • Red: Waffle House is closed = not good, area is unsafe to return
If you've never had the good fortune of eating at a Waffle House, you should remedy that because you're doing your waistline and arteries a disservice. Background: located throughout much of the south, especially the gulf coast states, they are as ubiquitous as Starbucks and known for always being open, 24/7/365. The combination of their geography and their business model, to be open as quickly as possible should they have to close the doors, makes them the perfect litmus test to gauge the impacts of an event in an area. 

It's a good menu...
Which brings me to my point, resilience on a personal level is at the crux of community recovery--if people don't rebuild, there is no community to come back to. However, just as important but less talked about is business resilience. Waffle House makes keeping the doors open a priority, as a result they need to be prepared when disaster strikes given where many of them are located--it's almost become a part of their organizational culture by default. Given that fact, duplication of supply chains and the ability to source things locally in order to get the doors open and butts in the seats as quickly as possible, is part of owning/running a Waffle House franchise. Along with Waffle House, Lowe's, Walmart, and Home Depot all strive to maintain a similarly high standard post-disaster. Given that these giants of industry have solid continuity planning integrated into their organizational culture...why is it that those models and procedural know haven't trickled down to help prepare small to medium-sized enterprises (SME)? 

We talk about whole of community but with the focus being on the individual/family. We need to push the availability of resources for small and medium-sized business as well...groups like the Small Business Administration and the Economic Recovery Support Function are some help to SME's, but in today's world of millions of messages being thrown around, the importance of business preparedness is diluted or lost.

The only reason people were able to get their hash browns covered, smothered, and chunked 3 days after Irene went through the mid-atlantic region in 2011, was because the Waffle House puts an emphasis on being many other businesses can claim the same?

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