In February 2008, a Johns Creek Waffle House invited lovers to celebrate Valentine’s Day. “I remember thinking, ‘Naw, that’ll never work,’” says Derrick Hooper, who oversaw Atlanta-area stores at the time. But then came 24 reservations—followed by dozens of walk-ins. One couple drove from Chattanooga. A man who had taken his wife to Waffle House on their first date pulled up in a Mercedes. Three news crews arrived. “It was crazy,” says Hooper. “It just mushroomed into this electric atmosphere.” By 2014, more than 175 locations offered Valentine’s Day specials ranging from Champagne flutes of Sprite to a roving violinist. Patrons rent limos and dress up in gowns and tuxes. But this is still WaHo—no jacket required.
This article originally appeared in our February 2015 issue.