Will other restaurants follow suit?


If there’s one restaurant to observe in a crisis, it’s Waffle House. FEMA already uses its number of closed locations as an unofficial barometer during times of natural disasters, and the chain is usually in a good position to make prudent decisions about when and how to reopen.

That’s why it’s particularly noteworthy that the all-day breakfast spot has made the decision to reopen its dining rooms in Georgia, its home state, during the week of April 27, when the state said restaurants could reopen. Governor Brian Kemp’s decision to reopen the state for restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, barber shops, and nail salons drew widespread criticism, including from President Trump. Waffle House’s decision also diverges from that of Chick-fil-A, as the Georgia-headquartered chain has chosen to keep its dining rooms closed for the time being.

Rather than simply opening its doors, Waffle House is at least taking some level of precautions to keep its staff and customers (relatively) safe. At one reopening location visited by Bloomberg, staff covered four out of the six counter stools and closed off certain booths with red tape to enforce new capacity limits. Menus were only available on request, as presumably anyone who’s that eager to get to a Waffle House right now probably has a go-to order already. Employees will also frequently sanitize surfaces, and customers who seem like they might be sick or showing symptoms will be turned away.

Waffle House—whose executive vice president Joe Rogers III served on Georgia’s 20-person reopening advisory committee, it should be noted—can and should take these preparations and precautions in light of state policy. But there’s no law requiring Georgians to start dining out again before they feel comfortable enough to do so. What all this means for Waffle House and other restaurant employees who don’t feel safe returning for work is a different story.