Doug French

Imagine the good fortune of having a Waffle House within walking distance of home and the office. Yes, Waffle House number 1882 is one of the newest in the chain of over 1,600 stores. Strategically located within stumbling distance of Auburn's downtown college bars, it's attracted some of the most decorated wait staff in the chain.

On a sultry mid-morning trip to the restaurant, I noticed that my server's name tag was cluttered with gold pens and a red star. When asked what it takes to get a red star, Andrea said, "Oh, it just means I can train people." The gold pins? "I've been here a long time," she said, before turning to the shift manager, asking if they could please turn up the air. "Even the customers are complaining," she said in a low but authoritative tone.

The food chain is ubiquitous in the South. Its buildings are tiny, while its signs are tall and impossible to miss in bright yellow with black letters. The menu is as uncomplicated as the building. Likely the hash-browns capital of the world, there is nothing pretentious about the Waffle House. The restaurant welcomes a diverse clientele of, not only happy families and young lovers, but also the lonely, the deranged, and especially the intoxicated.

The 9 p.m. – 7 a.m. third shift does three quarters the business of the traditional first shift, which includes both the normal breakfast and lunch hours. In Waffle Street: The Confession & Rehabilitation of a Financier, James Adams writes,

At 2:30 A.M., the restaurant doors explode. Within fifteen minutes, sixty barflies and club hoppers occupy a diner with seating capacity for only forty-two persons. I and two other harried servers struggle to placate them as they drunkenly clamor for service. Plunging into the maelstrom, I ask myself which part of my job description contains the phrases "crowd control" and "hangover mitigation."

Adams was no veteran when given the third-shift opportunity. He had only been on the job at Waffle House for a few weeks. His Chartered Financial Analyst designation and MBA provided scant seasoning for the assignment. The five years as an investment analyst for a couple of life-insurance companies were no help. Neither was his most recent job of providing "verbal and written commentary on the performance of forty bond portfolios whose strategies covered nearly everything under the sun" for a company he refers to as "Alpha Managers."

Doug French

Doug French is is president of the Mises Institute and author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply and Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth

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