Posted by: Walt Ehmer, President, Waffle House, Inc.
Editor's Note: The views expressed by Walt Ehmer do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.
Preparation is a big part of our job at Waffle House® Restaurants. Since we never close, being prepared for the unexpected is as big a part of our job as is cooking hashbrowns, waffles and eggs. When running a 24/7 restaurant if you don’t plan well, then every day will be an emergency.
This culture of planning for everyday activities is well suited for when an emergency presents itself. Over the last two years, our company has responded to many emergencies - the ice storm in Atlanta, the tornadoes in Missouri, Alabama and north Georgia and Hurricane Irene in the Carolinas. The main part of our plan is what we call “Show Up.” We show up to the area, determine what is needed to get the restaurants open and then do it.
There is logistics planning in staging and getting additional supplies and manpower into an affected area right after a storm, however it’s our show up that sets us apart from other companies. Our planning gets us ready for the storm and so once it has passed our managers can see what’s going on in the area and respond right after an emergency.
We put our leadership on the ground right after the storm to make the decisions needed on where to send the supplies and manpower. Within hours of Hurricane Irene making landfall, our Chairman & CEO, two Executive Vice Presidents, a subsidiary President, our CFO and I were all on site managing the emergency from the front lines.
We had staged some supplies and sent additional manpower into the area. However it was the management on the ground making the decisions about what needed to go where – not someone back in our corporate office in Georgia. This allowed us to quickly respond to the issues at our restaurants.
After each emergency, we look at our planning to decide what worked well and what needs to be tweaked. But the biggest part of our planning is to show up and decide what is needed to keep the restaurants open.
And that’s the big take away for other businesses and individuals. You need to plan ahead and then when the emergency occurs, be ready to be flexible and address the most important issues in front of you. And over time, it simply becomes part of your company’s or home’s culture.