End of the Waffle House Index? Push for $25 wages comes amid strike talk for some workers

$25 an hour to work at Waffle House?

That’s what some employees and supporters at the chain restaurant's southeast locations are apparently requesting. #WaffleHouse was trending Monday and Tuesday because some Waffle House employees in Atlanta protested for a higher wage, 24/7 security and an end to mandatory meal deductions, news reports show.

Earlier this week, there were several tweets and videos on social media showing rallies at restaurants in Atlanta, held largely in part by the Union of Southern Service Workers.

Waffle House has several locations in neighboring Florida, and the famous “Waffle House Index” comes in handy during Atlantic hurricane season — to measure just how serious a tropical storm is. The restaurant has gained a reputation for staying open to feed first responders or people affected by inclement weather during hurricane season or other natural disasters.

The push for wage increases for Waffle House employees has seen a divide on social, too.

On the one hand, $25 an hour for service industry workers seems well-deserved, supporters say. On the other hand, social media users had strongly worded tweets about a wage increase for Waffle House employees.

Here’s what we know.

What is the Waffle House Index?

The Waffle House Index has three levels to measure the destructive power during a natural disaster:

  • Green: The Waffle House is open and serving a full menu. This means the restaurant has power and there is either no damage or it’s minimal.

  • Yellow: The Waffle House is open but serving a limited menu. This means that power is out and the restaurant is running on a generator.

  • Red: The Waffle House is closed and the area has likely experienced severe damage or severe flooding.

Waffle House acknowledges its famous "hurricane disaster index," too, in a 2011 blog post titled, "how to measure a storm's fury one breakfast at a time." Craig Fugate, then head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, helped coin the phrase. In the blog post, his “Waffle House Index” meant:

  • Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on.

  • Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies.

  • Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.

In 2011, Waffle House had 1,600 restaurants from the mid-Atlantic to Florida and across the Gulf Coast, "leaving it particularly vulnerable to hurricanes. Other businesses, of course, strive to reopen as quickly as possible after disasters. But the Waffle House, which spends almost nothing on advertising, has built a marketing strategy around the goodwill gained from being open when customers are most desperate," the blog post states.

Who uses the Waffle House Index?

In addition to FEMA, emergency management and local government officials, the Waffle House Index is popular among journalists covering tropical storms and hurricanes. When a Waffle House location closes, it becomes a story as it helps indicate the severity of the storm.

During Hurricane Idalia in August, five Waffle House locations in Florida briefly closed.

Before Hurricane Idalia made landfall at Keaton Beach, as a precaution, the business preemptively closed three stores in Idalia's path, Njeri Boss, Waffle House's vice president of public relations, told USA TODAY. The Waffle House restaurants in Florida's Big Bend area (Live Oak, Madison and Lake City) were in mandatory evacuation zones. The chain also shut down two stores in St. Petersburg because of "storm surge and flooding," the USA TODAY story states.

What does the Waffle House petition say?

Below is the petition wordage, according to the USSW:

"Waffle House workers from across the South are fed up. We're sick and tired of making poverty wages, the constant threat of in-store violence, and mandatory meal deductions – whether we eat a meal or not while on a shift. We refuse to be exploited – and so we're getting organized. We're launching a powerful set of demands on Waffle House to take back what is rightfully ours: A workplace based on respect, dignity and fair pay for everyone."Specifically, we demand:

  • Safety at work. Waffle House must provide 24/7 security and allow workers to have real input on creating a safety plan for their store, including during natural disasters.

  • An end to unfair paycheck deductions. Waffle House must end their mandatory meal deduction policy and make it optional for workers to purchase discounted shift meals.

  • A fair wage from our employer. Waffle House must pay $25/hour for all workers, cooks and servers.

This #SolidaritySeason, we need everyone – from Waffle House workers to community allies and elected officials – to sign this petition. Sign this petition to let Waffle House know, we demand to be respected, protected and paid!"

Did Waffle House respond to the rallies and $ 25-an-hour wage request?

According to a Sept. 30 story on, a spokesperson for Waffle House released this statement: “We are aware of the activities that took place yesterday at three of our locations in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, in which nearly all the people who protested were not Waffle House associates. Very few, if any were employees, contrary to the embellished descriptions that union officials have presented in their press release and accompanying photos sent to the media. With that said, Waffle House remains proud of its long history of effectively and directly addressing associate concerns. Our senior management teams continue to work alongside our associates as they have done since our company’s inception.”

How much do Waffle House employees typically make per hour?

An Oct. 4 check on the job site Indeed shows salaries for Waffle House roles range from $57,000 per year for a restaurant manager to $12.04 per hour for a grill cook at Waffle House restaurants in Atlanta. District managers could make up to $77,000 per year with division manager positions at $107,000 per year, the site shows.

A similar check Oct. 4 for Waffle House employees in Atlanta on Glassdoor shows more of a range: A restaurant manager could make between $36,000 and $56,000, the site states, while cooks typically make between $13 and $17. District managers show a salary between $92,000 and $141,000.

Contributing: Natalie Neysa Alund, USA TODAY and Brandon Girod of the Pensacola News Journal

Sangalang is a lead digital producer for USA TODAY Network-Florida. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @byjensangalang. Support local journalism. Consider subscribing to a Florida newspaper.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: End of Waffle House index? Workers right push comes amid strike threat