The yellow-and-black tiled sign outside, the red padded booths, the low-hanging globe lamps. Could all this be yours one day? Maybe, but don’t hold your breath. According to Bert Thornton, Waffle House’s vice chairman emeritus, the list of people trying to get into the WaHo biz is “very long and very distinguished.” The company owns about 80 percent of its more than 1,800 locations and has stringent franchise conditions that deter most prospective operators. Typically, only expansion plans from existing—and particularly successful—franchisees are considered. The reason, Thornton says, is that WaHo is dedicated to maintaining consistency from one location to another. “We would rather raise our babies from the start,” he says.
This article originally appeared in our May 2016 issue.