Of course, Georgia holds the largest number of Waffle Houses in America, with over 430 locations. This is not surprising as the waffle house empire is headquartered in Georgia, near the Atlanta metropolitan area, specifically in the city of Norcross. The first ever Waffle House was opened during Labor Day weekend in 1955 in Avondale Estates. Like many other restraints, it was never opened with the idea of achieving hundreds of franchise stores, but rather to provide a source of income for budding entrepreneurs that wish to put their skills to use and serve the local community with great breakfast food.
One of the founders, Joe Rogers Sr. came across this idea while working as a short-order cook in 1947. At the time, he was working in New Haven, Connecticut, and became regional manager at the Toddle House in 1949. The chain had become defunct, and all subsequent locations were at risk of being closed (with headquarters in Memphis). Rogers had moved to Atlanta and met Tom Forkner, a real estate agent who had contacted Rogers to sell him a house in Avondale Estates. After talking with each other, they came up with the idea of opening a breakfast place in the area to put their skills in cooking and management to work.
It was named the "Waffle House" as it was the most profitable item on the 16-item menu and quickly rose to popularity for serving breakfast at any hour of the day with an extremely quick turnaround time. By 1960, there were already two other Waffle Houses, when Rogers decided to franchise the business to keep costs down and help with the expansion. Growth accelerated, and they had opened 27 stores by the end of the 1960s. Rogers' son retired in 2013, and Bert Thornton has taken the reign as president.
Interestingly enough, Forkner and Rogers, the founders of Waffle House, both died in 2017 - within two months of each other.
Florida and North Carolina are tied for second place for a number of locations, with Florida only having a slight advantage of two more stores than North Carolina. It may be obvious why these two states have so many locations, as they both border Georgia, with South Carolina also holding over 170 locations. The Waffle House is extremely popular in the South and is extremely well-known for the traditional cooking and orders of the American diet in the region.
Currently, there are only 25 states that have waffle houses, with the fewest being Illinois and New Mexico (2 store locations each). Waffle House is not very popular in the North, and many franchisees have not expressed much interest in purchasing the chain. Alaska, for example, may present a unique opportunity for an untested market. Although the Waffle House is aptly named, it was initially known as "Waffle and Steak" in Indiana, as there was another chain with the same name.
This means that the traditional steak and waffle breakfast has permeated the rest of America, and may present a powerful economic expansion into the more northern or isolated states.