Scattered, Smothered, and Covered

wafflehouse.pngIf you are from the south, you more than likely not only instantly recognize the unofficial Waffle House mantra of “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered”, but you probably also know what it means. Today’s entrepreneurial lesson is brought to you (unofficially, of course) by Waffle House. In today’s lesson, we will learn how not to bring a brick and mortar business along the chain of commerce progression. As an added bonus, we’ll discover nifty ways to piss your customers off!

Waffle House is a venerable institution in the southern part of the United States. Open 24 hours, 7 days a week, most of the things you can order there would probably kill you if eaten more than once a month, but boy it sure is good. Nothing says “Saturday morning hangover” like a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich, and a hot waffle! The coffee ain’t bad, either.

For over 50 years, Waffle House was a “cash-only” business. No credit cards or checks were accepted. 50 years! It wasn’t until February of this year (2006) that they began accepting credit cards. Here is a great quote from Walt Ehmer, Waffle House Vice President:

We wanted to make sure credit cards were here to stay before we started accepting them. Seriously though, we listen to our customers to find ways to enhance their Waffle House experience, and accepting credit cards was the biggest suggestion we heard.

Okay, sounds reasonable. There have been more than a few times where I was a little shy with cash-on-hand, and had chosen to go elsewhere for my cholesterol fix. So this was a good thing. Finally – Waffle House has ventured into the age of digital commerce – they accept credit cards! Aside from that pesky war in Iraq, things were looking pretty good.

The other day, my wife and decided that it was going to be a “Waffle House Saturday”. Not because we had a Saturday morning hangover, but rather we had a Friday night episode with our newborn. We decided that instead of packing up the baby and driving there, we’d just do a call-in/pick-up order. No biggie – we’ve done this several times in the past. I pick up the phone and dial up the Waffle House down the street not far from where we live.

Waffle House Employee: Thank you for calling Waffle House, how may I help you?

Scott: Yes, I’d like to place a pickup order please.

Waffle House Employee: Yes, will that be for here or to-go?

Scott: Um, it’s a pickup order …. that inherently means it’s to-go.

Waffle House Employee: Ok, can you call back in a few minutes?

Scott: Why?

Waffle House Employee: We only have one phone line and we are trying to run a credit card through at the moment.

Scott: {Dumbfounded silence …}

Waffle House Employee: {click …}

My old man used to say that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Waffle House finally accepts credit cards, and they do it on the cheap by using the same phone line as the restaurant’s main line.

Being a die-hard Waffle House connoisseur, and an afficionado of anything covered in hot syrup, I decided that I would go online and look at their menu before calling back. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go with something different, or stick with my “old faithful” order (which I won’t disclose here for the sake of getting solicited by any and all cardiologists reading this blog.)

Being the resourceful consumer that I am (coupled with the fact that I like to cause trouble), I went to the Waffle House web site to view their menu. After several minutes of poking around, it occured to me that they didn’t have the menu published on their web site.

Now, if you are in the restaurant business, there are three “must-have” things you need to have on your web site. A list of your locations (or “location”, singular, if you only have one place of business), driving directions/maps to those locations, and your menu in electronic form. Nope – no menu on the Waffle House site.

A restaurant with out a menu on their web site is something akin to not listing what books they sell. The shame!

Ok, now some of you are probably screaming at me. I can hear you now. “Scott, how can you pick on the Waffle House? They are this lowly, truck-stop of a breakfast diner. They aren’t Morton’s, The Palm, or The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton. They are like Stucky’s with stools.
And you’d be right.

But let me put this into an economic perspective for you. Waffle House operates over 1,400 restaurants across 25 states. In 2003, their revenues were north of $800M. I’m sure it is probably closer to $1B a year by now. I think they can somehow free up the required financial resources to put their menu on their web site.

Although their menu isn’t on their web site, the good news is that you can actually buy Waffle House merchandise online! I wonder which is more important to their customers? I can’t call in a pick up order efficiently, and I can’t view their menu online, but boy … don’t I look spiffy in my Waffle House tee-shirt!

I’ll bet my wife would love a hat.

If anyone from Waffle House, Inc is reading this, please accept this blog post as $25,000 worth of free management consulting services, courtesy of The Pothole. I estimate that is roughly what you would pay a consultant to come in, pour through your organization, and present their “honest assessment” of how you can improve your service.

P.S. for those of you who don’t know what “Scattered, Covered, and Smothered” means, here ya go.



  1. The scary part is the store is located at

  2. Lol – good find … :)


  3. Ross Rankin · June 22, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Don’t forget until 1995, the the Ritz Carlton and Waffle House was owned by the same company. In 1995, Marriott International bought it out… So technically you could say it was like heading to the offsite The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton… ;)

  4. From the Waffle House FAQ:

    Where is your menu on the web site?

    Currently we do not have our menu on the web site. Waffle House offers a variety of foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Please visit one of our 1,500 locations in the U.S. to check out what we offer on our menu.

    Can you imagine this:

    Welcome to Barnes & Noble dot com.

    Where are the books on your web site?

    Currently we do not have our books on the web site. Barnes & Noble offers a variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, and instructional. Please visit one of our 11,000 locations in the U.S. to check out what we offer as far as books go.


  5. Good post Scott! It is so frustrating! I went to the web site for Storables and found to my amazement, that you CAN’T BUY PRODUCT from them online! Unbelievable. By the way I like my Waffle House hash browns scattered and smothered, extra crispy. ~Monica

  6. Hi there, Monica, and thanks for stopping by!

    My wife loves your work on HGTV’s Mission Organization, BTW. I think you two may have been separated at birth. :)


  7. Thanks Scott for your kind words about my episodes. I appreciate it. They are haaaaard work, as you and your lovely bride might imagine. Hope to see you here in Atlanta sometime. Let me know when you want to meet at Muss & Turner’s for lunch. ~Monica

  8. Darren Emerick · July 31, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    “Scattered, topped, peppered with a side of grits (I add sugar when north of the Mason-Dixon line) and coffee black. I’ve been to about 40 different WH locations traveling around the country. Total misery when in one of the lonely state without a Waffle House (i.e. Arizona, Cali, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming).

    I considered the new credit card policy a sure sign of the Apocolypse.

    BTW – would you like to open a couple WH locations? Check out their policy…I have!

    Thanks for the article.

  9. I know when I was a customer and i found that w.h. was finally accepting credit cards i said, “congratulations, welcome to the twenty first century!”
    w.h. employee

  10. Christopher J. Swift · June 19, 2007 at 10:21 am

    I live near the corp headquarters and must say WH is a way of life in GA and Fl.

    The crowd in there is not usually the type that looks up menus on the interent I must add.

    Great post,Two waffles and the hash browns with onions and unsweetend ice tea.

  11. hi everyone and all the poor old cash customers who like to ad good comments. i am one of those low class waffle house workers. id like to first thank you for your buisness and your tips they have helped support my family for twenty years. as with the credit cards i like it because it not only convenient for the customer it helps bring our gratuities into the twenty first century. short on cash can also mean short on tip there are alot of reasons why companies are slow in staying up with the times sometimes the cost is passed on to the poor old cash customer , websites , credit cards, etc. you know those companies get a peice of the pie so the prices go up and oops there is another complaint … its hard to satisfy everyone but we try.our machines are hooked up to a phone line but your order should have been taken when you called and im sorry that happened to you please dont let that have predjudist toward the rest of us there is always an employee somewhere that makes a mistake like that somewhere but our company would not be happy with that incident at all. if youre ever in knightdale, nc I hope to have the chance to give you the service you deserve. i love waffle house we are a very diverse company with some well educated people and some new people and give us a pat on the back cause we work hard for our families and you sincerly, susan

  12. sorry about my spelling i was typing too fast and didnt proof read lol

  13. by the way, scott. since waffle house has revenue past 800 mil. i think its apparent they dont need to pay anyone for concultation it looks loik they have done well without you lol

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