Why Waffle House Has Four Different Menus

What's the difference between a West Coast and a Southern home buyer's must-have checklist? The latter dream home needs to be within walking distance of a Waffle House. From twisters to floods to hurricanes, it's no secret that Southern states are susceptible to some of the worst weather Mother Nature has to offer. So, in the event that a natural disaster does strike, here's why you'll want to be within arm's length of the 24-hour diner.

In 2011, Waffle House adopted the "Waffle House Index," a color-coded system that notifies community members as well as local and national government organizations like the Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) of a local disaster's severity and destruction, according to Accuweather. Code Green indicates a full-service menu, while a limited menu is under a Code Yellow umbrella, and if Waffle House is closed (which almost never happens), then it's Code Red (via Eat This, Not That!). 

For Code Yellow status, Waffle House has implemented four different kinds of "disaster menus" so that no matter the level of storm or destruction, the restaurant could still operate to some degree and provide food and shelter. "After the storm, we feel like we need to be there. It brings the community back faster," Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner has said (per Business Insider). "You'll start to see folks getting out more, back at Waffle House to check in on everybody, make sure everybody's okay, get a good meal." Clearly, no Waffle House location is going to surrender to Code Red without a fight.

Waffle House's disaster menu offerings are organized by resources, or lack thereof

Known for its hash browns galore, Waffle House is much more than just a restaurant chain, it's a place of refuge. Under Waffle House's Code Yellow tier are four different "disaster menus" labeled limited menu, emergency menu, no-water menu, and no-power menu (via Reddit). These are put into place so that, in the event of a natural disaster, the establishment can remain open to provide food and shelter to those in surrounding neighborhoods.

Each menu has a limited amount of offerings, which are selected based on available resources, or lack thereof during times of crisis. According to a Reddit user, the "limited menu" is used when there are other restaurants open, whereas the "emergency menu" is distributed when Waffle House is the only food service running in the area. Should Waffle House lose access to resources like power or water, then the other two menus come into play. 

Another Reddit user clarified that the "no-water menu" simply means no ice or water-ingredient foods like pancakes or waffles will be available. However, Waffle House locations are equipped with emergency water tanks for sanitation purposes. Likewise, the griddles are gas, not electric, so customers can still order eggs, hash browns, and hamburgers during power outages. Additionally, it's also common for Waffle House to slash prices during Code Yellow times. One spokesperson told Business Insider that prices are determined by the "lowest tax rate in the local market, and then rounded down from there to the nearest dollar." This helps low-income families, those with only cash on-hand, or if grocery stores are unreachable and families need food.

Could there be a possible fifth menu?

Beyond the four "Waffle House Index" menus, it's possible — at least, according to Reddit — that Waffle House may actually have one more menu: the secret menu. Experienced Waffle House cook u/Ashi-Sama said that while there are "not many 'hidden'" menu items, "a lot of stores have creative cooks who may have something different they can make for you." 

Waffle House's official Instagram also alluded to the fact that employees sometimes veer from standard menus, asking customers to post pictures of their "favorite 'off the menu' creations." The chain reposted two customers' picks, including a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich served on raisin toast and a bacon, egg, and cheese creation on a waffle. Meanwhile, Instagrammer @rockstar_grilloperator, who claims to have been a Waffle House employee for 29 years, shared a pic of what they call "Secret Menu Item #154:" Double D's, or two sunny-side-up eggs on top of round hash browns.

Back over on Reddit, cooks and customers shared some more "secret" menu items from Waffle House, such as Texas French toast sticks; grilled pork chops with cheese, onions, and mushrooms; meatloaf and mashed potatoes; and even pecan praline waffles. The thread also points out, though, that not all Waffle Houses make these items, and you'll probably be out of luck if you ask for an off-menu dish during a busy period. However, another Waffle House employee wrote, "I just tell customers who seem to be indecisive that we also have omelets and other items not listed on the main menu and that if there's something they were in the mood for but don't see, to simply ask."