Answer to Map #70
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Answer: This week’s map was a dot map depicting the locations of every Waffle House in the state of Georgia.
The Waffle House is a staple of Southern casual dining. Waffle Houses are ubiquitous in the South, but uncommon elsewhere. There are 432 Waffle Houses in Georgia. The states with the next most locations are South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Alabama.
The reason we know where all the Waffle Houses in Georgia are is because the students of Eastside High School in Covington, Georgia, decided to email the corporate offices and ask for a spreadsheet of their street addresses. In many cases, one would have to purchase a data set like this, so we’re grateful to the Waffle House people for providing it. From there, we converted all the street addresses to latitudes and longitudes using the geocoding service of the U.S. Census, then plotted all the latitudes and longitudes.
The most interesting pattern that emerges from this process is how clearly the interstate highways of Georgia are visible on the map. It makes sense, of course, that cheap, casual restaurants would cluster around highway offramps. On this map, I-75, I-20, I-16, and I-85 are all visible.
The Waffle House has been in the news remarkably often in the past few years. In 2015, a writer for Bon Appetit decided to work three consecutive eight-hour shifts at a Waffle House just to write about what it was like to work there for 24 hours straight. Of course, there are plenty of people who work long hours at the Waffle House for low pay on a regular basis. And then just last month, the Waffle House was in the news again because of an incident in South Carolina. A drunk man showed up at 3am, discovered that the restaurant’s employees were sleeping, and proceeded to cook himself a Texas bacon cheesesteak melt on the grill rather than wake up the people who were actually supposed to cook it. The best part of the story is that the guy paid for his food.
And the Waffle House has even made the news for more serious reasons. During the Obama administration, FEMA Administor Craig Fugate gave several interviews about the “Waffle House index,” a way of measuring the severity of a natural disaster. Since Waffle Houses are nearly always open, it’s alarming whenever one has to shut down. When a Waffle House is fully powered and serving its complete menu, that’s “green” on the index. When it has a limited menu because it is operating without power or with generator power, that’s “yellow.” And “if you get there and the Waffle House is closed?” says Fugate. “That’s really bad. That’s when you go to work.”
The special status accorded to Waffle Houses in parts of the South, and especially in Georgia, makes clear why the students at Eastside High School were so excited to share this map with you. Or, rather, with y’all. Even though it was winter break when we put up the map, the students got together to celebrate over a leisurely breakfast at—where else?—the local Waffle House.
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