Wait a second – did that last bit just mention Waffle House? In the same sentence with Apple and Zappos? Well, it turns out our friends at the Waffle House probably deserve to be thought of in such lofty company. Why? Well, it isn’t (completely) for the waffles and biscuits. It’s for the remarkable planning, strategy, execution, and dedication to customer service the chain exhibits in times of natural disaster. When a hurricane or a tornado strikes, the Waffle House springs into action. From a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal titled ‘How To Measure a Storm’s Fury One Breakfast at a Time’ –
Essentially – the Waffle House, with hundreds of its restaurants in areas of the country prone to such natural disasters like hurricanes, getting back up and running in times of crisis is a matter of organizational priority and pride. When the communities and customers the Waffle House serves are in their most acute time of need, with the power out and food supplies either spoiled or simply not easily available, when a decent hot meal and cup of coffee are most desperately desired, the Waffle House has developed and implemented a strategy to re-open as quickly as possible. Sure the initial menu might be a little limited, but the key point is the House is open, and folks who have had their world turned upside down by a hurricane or a tornado can get some waffles and sausage, and maybe a few minutes of normalcy back.
It’s great business, even if it isn’t particularly profitable, there is a lot of extra cost associated with disaster planning and extra staffing, but the goodwill the chain generates by being there when times are tough is a sound investment for times when customers actually do have a choice in where to eat.
So sure, keep reading those rockstar CEO books, reading pieces on HBR about the genius that is Steve Jobs and Apple, but instead of slumping back down in your chair thinking ‘We can’t be Zappos’, maybe set your sights on the Waffle House instead. And pass me a biscuit.
Steve Boese is fondly known to many as the HR Technology blogger. By day, he is the Co-Chair of Human Resource Executive’s HR Technology Conference. He is also a former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle and an HR Technology instructor. Steve can also be found hosting the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast … you know, where a bunch of HR pros get together and call in to talk about HR stuff. Sounds like an SNL skit, we know. But when you have Dave Ulrich, the grandfather of HR as show guests, well, I guess you’re doing something right. Talk to Steve via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.