At Waffle House, hashbrowns are served six ways from Sunday. Well, nine ways in fact, with combinations ranging from smoked ham and gravy to chili and melted cheese. The possibilities sound endless, but two Georgia men found a new recipe: an order of hashbrowns with all of the money in the register.
Over the course of three weeks in July and August, the 1,600-store chain was the target of 18 armed robberies in Georgia and Alabama, reports The New York Times. The perpetrators developed a pattern: order a meal to go, wait until it was ready, and then draw their guns (eating was optional).
A 24/7 establishment, the diner serves Southern staples like grits, waffles and sweet tea every day of the year, including Christmas. The signature, yellow block-letter sign can be seen standing tall over Interstate onramps throughout the South, which was one of the reasons Georgia authorities believe the restaurants were so attractive to criminals. “They are cash-driven,” Cobb County Sergeant Dana Pierce told The New York Times. “They are near Interstate exits. And they are open 24 hours, when people aren’t necessarily in a sober state of mind.”
But in the South, Waffle House is more than a late-night pit stop. In the event of a natural disaster, FEMA developed the Waffle House Index to gauge the long term effect of the destruction. According to their website, “if a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red.” If Waffle House can’t open its doors during a disaster, local communities will likely require a longer clean-up.
As for the robberies themselves, the clean-up is still in progress. Waffle House originally offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrests of the robbers, according to The New York Times. Although two suspects were detained in August and are awaiting trial in Alabama, recent events may delay a return to normalcy. Earlier this month, F.B.I. agents in Georgia arrested four elderly men who had been planning to carry out terrorist attacks on government buildings in Atlanta and the Southeast. And their favorite spot for conspiring against an overreaching US government? Waffle House, according to surveillance tapes.
Nevertheless, waitresses who served the four regulars still see them as “a bunch of old men just talking and trying to be big shots,” reports The New York Times. As for the loyal Waffle House customers across the South, only time will tell how long the recovery process will take.
By mail.com Editor Will Cade