Waffle House: Pop Culture Icon Essay
Waffle House remains cemented in pop culture as a place where one can enjoy a meal with friends at any hour. This image of a fun, all night hangout has recently been tarnished by multiple allegations of racism on the part of both customers and employees. Our group feels the best way to combat this negative association between the restaurant and discrimination would be for Waffle House to become positively involved in charities to support historically African American communities. By releasing more information and keeping an open relationship with the media, Waffle House will be able to more effectively contest negative publicity.
Waffle House was founded in Avondale Estates, Georgia in 1955 by Joe Rogers, Sr.
and Tom Forkner. Waffle House had humble beginnings in a small house in a local neighborhood. The founders simply wanted a place to dine with friends and enjoy the company of others. Rogers and Forkner gradually built their dynasty by adding a restaurant here and there as they had “the money, someone to run it, and a great location,” (Waffle House, 2005).
The basic premise of this southern restaurant, devoted to “pancake’s crispier cousin,” was simple southern cooking and keeping overhead low (Hoovers, 2005). The restaurant chain embodies the spirit and culture of the1950s from the simple cash only payment policies down to the jukebox full of old time favorites found within every restaurant.
The chain has altered its decorum and menu offerings minimally since it first opened in 1955. Waffle House has gained its fame for being open twenty-four hours a day and three hundred sixty- five days a year, regardless of bad weather or national holidays.
Waffle House has a few simple mottos according to its founders, including
“wanting a restaurant for our friends to come in and eat and visit with us,” (Waffle House, 2005). Other mission statement includes quality food and quality conversation at reasonable prices along with treating workers like family. Founder, Joe Rogers Sr., described Waffle House’s manta as personalized, friendly service.
To accomplish this, employees follow simple rules such as “to win friends, be one,” and “a smile makes the food taste better,” (Waffle House, 2005).
Rogers once compared the typical Waffle House customer to the old cartoon character Dagwood Bumstead. The co-founder then went on to describe the customer as someone who has “been kicked out of his house, and he’s looking for someone to be kind to him,” (Osinski, 2004). Furthermore, Rogers says Waffle House has positioned itself, not only an all-night establishment serving quality food at low prices, but also as a friend to those customers who need one. Waffle House’s job, Rogers notes, is to “make people feel better because they ate with us,” (Osinski, 2004)
Waffle House has quickly become a pop culture icon despite the company’s lack of significant public relations campaigns. The corporation uses little advertising and releases few details about its operations to the public.
Despite the company’s poor public relations efforts, Waffle House has been featured on Rosie O’Donnell Show, the cover of Hootie & The Blowfish’s album, the movies Tin Cup and Crossroads, and was featured in the R;B group 112’s music video. Countless celebrities and public figures such as Faith Hill, Former President George Bush, Reese Witherspoon, Jay-Z, and Billy Bob Thorton have eaten at Waffle House restaurants.
Another facet of the Waffle House’s unique appeal is that it serves as a meeting place for a very diverse clientele. Rogers said “On any given day, you can have a bank president sitting beside a ditch digger,” (Osinski, 2004). Part of the charm of Waffle House restaurants is this mystery of who could be dining there any time you enter its doors. The atmosphere at the around the clock Waffle House restaurants differentiates it from other competitors such as Denny’s or Shoney’s.
Waffle House is the number two family-style restaurant chain in the United States, behind Denny’s (Hoovers, 2005). Also, Waffle House ranked in the top five “Around the Clock Eats” on the Food Network (Waffle House, 2005). The company has nearly 1,400 of its 1950s style diners that they own or franchise in 25 predominately southern states (Hoovers, 2005). Of the 1,400 restaurants, Waffle .