When we moved to Decatur, Georgia in 1973, we noticed the little restaurants with yellow signs saying “Waffle House.” In France waffles are for dessert – they are served with powdered sugar, or whipped cream, or covered with fruits, or sprinkled with cinnamon or rum or another liquor. Below is the usual waffles served in France. I used the photo from the French family cooking site Super Antoinette.French waffles (gaufres au sucre)
French waffles (gaufres au sucre) courtesy Super Antoinette, Cuisine FamilialeMany people had come to visit the museum. We were greeted by a large poster, a replica of the Welcome sign, where people could place their heads to be photographed. We did.
Back then I thought that the Waffle House restaurant was a “dessert” restaurant serving waffles and crepes. Once inside though I saw that they served waffles as a breakfast item and offered many other items on their menu. Since that time we have been to numerous Waffle House restaurants as they are everywhere in Georgia. In a 6 mile radius (10 kms) around my home I can think of seven of these restaurants. Early last month, on Saturday 7 January 2012 to be exact, as I was reading the Saturday Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper I happened to read a small article on the original Waffle House restaurant. Here is the clipping below.
Click on picture to enlarge to read clipping
It announced that until 3 pm that day the original Waffle House restaurant in Decatur, GA, would be open for a rare public tour. That day we had planned to drive to Decatur to the Farmer’s Market so we decided to stop at the museum first. Below is the original restaurant, established in 1955 in Avondale Estates a suburb of Atlanta, which is a museum now showing the restaurant as it was then. On the left is a small room with memorabilia.
There were panels on the wall explaining the origins of the Waffle House, photos of the first restaurant in 1955 and of the two founders as they looked then and now.
We were allowed to go behind the counter where props had been set like steaks on the grill, fried eggs, etc. Pictures were authorized and I took many.
While my husband was reading the original Waffle House menu
Click on collage to enlarge, then click on each picture to enlarge moreThen we walked into the back room where the pies were made and the extra food kept.
There were huge bags of sugar and flour and a calendar opened to September 1955.
After touring the restaurant we walked to the room next door which houses memorabilia. As we entered a tour guide greeted us. She stood in front of a life size photo of the two founders. This photo is set behind a replica of an original counter with authentic seats. Next to it is a showcase with many advertizing buttons.
The tour guide explained how Waffle House was started in 1955. Joe Rogers, Sr. and Tom Forkner, friends and neighbors in their late thirties, decided to partner in a 24-hour restaurant business to be open 365 days a year. They decided to use waffles for their restaurant as it was less expensive and they wished their restaurant to be a warm, friendly place – a family type restaurant, a home away from home. They opened the restaurant on Labor Day 1955 (5 September 1955.) Now, 57 years later, they are still partners and involved in the business. The museum is lined with early photographs.
Some old and new Waffle House items are also displayed such as the first printing calculator they used, china, menus and uniforms.
There are advertizing items and a video.
A skillet recovered after Hurricane Katrina hit Biloxi, Mississippi, on 29 August 2005 at 6:10 am is on display.
When we left we were offered a coupon for a free waffle at any of the restaurant as well as a small button. I choose the Waffle House Princess button for my daughter Céline who missed Waffle House so much while living in California. I even bought her a Waffle House coffee cup a couple of years ago as a Christmas present.
Céline is moving back South now and her new position will have her travel into many Southern states. She will always find a Waffle House near as there are now more than 1600 Waffle House restaurants in twenty-five states, mostly in the South, above all in Georgia. There are at least 455 Waffle Houses in Georgia and about 200 in Metro Atlanta. We went to three Waffle House restaurants last week and I took more pictures. We had breakfast at one of them where we had waffles, of course. There were business men having breakfast as well as a young patron.
A couple of days later we went to another Waffle House for lunch. My husband had a hamburger and I had a lettuce, bacon and tomato sandwich. I finished with a cup of coffee. In the collage below you can see the jukebox at the top of the bottom right hand side photo. Many songs have been written featuring the Waffle House restaurants.
With my coffee I had a small slice of pecan pie as I was planning to bake a pecan pie soon. The waitress was especially pleasant. She warmed up the slice and added a tiny bit of butter. She heard my accent and asked if I spoke French. She told me her mother came from the Caribbean and spoke fluent French.
On the little leaflets given to me at the Waffle House Museum I read that the founders always emphasized customer service. They have promoted a people-oriented corporate strategy. They say “We are not in the food business… We are in the People business.” This shows because I have never met an unfriendly Waffle House waitress. It is good for their business too. These are some numbers: since 1955 they have served 877,388,027 waffles, 1,289,801,887 cups of coffee, 2,501,866,574 eggs and so on. They add that “If you poured all of the cups of Coffee that Waffle House serves in one year, it would be enough to fill nearly 8 Olympic swimming pools!” and another quote “If you could stack all of the Sausage Patties that Waffle House serves in one day on top of each other, it would be nearly twice the size of the World's Tallest Building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai or four times the size of the Empire State Building.” That certainly is impressive! Below is a poster showing all the numbers as of 2005.
The waitress in the last Waffle House we visited gave us a little card offering a special romantic reservation-only Valentine Dinner with white tablecloths, candle light and special 5 start service. That sounds interesting….The wording on the card is a play on their trademark sentence they use for serving hash brown potatoes which can be served ““Scattered, Smothered and Covered.”
I think most of the pictures I took of this Southern icon are in this post, along with the notes I took after listening to the tour guide and reading all the leaflets. Since this last picture is pink and relating to Valentine’s Day I’ll attach a picture I took a couple of days ago of flowering trees nearby. It has been so mild that there are many buds but unfortunately the Weather Service is announcing very cold nights in the 20s F (-6 C) and most of these buds will suffer.