What One Restaurant Employee Wishes You Understood About Natural Disasters

During natural disasters like hurricanes, massive thunderstorms, or tornadoes, many businesses may close their doors for the worst of it. But oftentimes, restaurants are some of the few spots in a community that remain open or quickly resume business in the aftermath. There's even an unofficial metric in the Southeast for natural disasters called the Waffle House Index, which uses Waffle House locations as a barometer for the extent of damage from a natural disaster (via USA Today). Basically, if a Waffle House location in your community is open, the natural disaster left your area unscathed. An open store with a limited menu indicates some damage has been done to the community, while a closed Waffle House location signals there has been extensive damage.

However, staying open can place restaurant workers in extremely difficult and dangerous situations. One Reddit user took to the platform to share their experience and frustration while working at a bar during Hurricane Ida. The user watched as customers were forced to abandon their cars in the parking lot. The employee had to navigate a treacherous commute that included helping a coworker trying to make it home to their sick spouse before finally having to deal with extensive flooding at their own home. "I literally put myself in danger because I had to stay and close the bar. Nobody in management took any initiative to say 'this is a natural disaster we need to shut down and leave immediately for the safety of the staff," they wrote.

The impassioned response from Reddit users

The Reddit post, entitled "Oh, there's a natural disaster? You're still coming in right?" received hundreds of comments and nearly 3,000 upvotes in the first day it went live. The responses varied, with some sharing heartwarming tales of restaurant managers or owners that showed empathy towards their employees, while others posted terrible tales of similar experiences in which they were forced to work through natural disasters. 

Some recalled getting into car accidents. Others had to choose between going home to their families and sleeping at the bar in order to open up on time the following morning. "HEARD! We need to get out of this. I'm tired of dumping time and effort into a place that doesn't care if I die coming into work," one user wrote. Multiple people expressed frustration about the plight of restaurant workers during natural disasters.

The original Reddit poster thanked fellow commenters for their support and said that "I truly believe we have forgotten our sense of community and have placed importance for our jobs and money over our families and our safety. Unless you are an essential worker, providing an essential service ... there's literally no need to risk life and limb so the public can be served beer and burgers."