Waffle House Presentation

Jamie Lloyd, News Editor

On Feb. 16,  the University of New Orleans College of Business Administration presented “Getting Ahead, Staying Ahead: Challenges For the 21st Century Workforce,” hosted by Vice President for Culture of Waffle House Corporation Pat Warner. Warner outlined how to get ahead in the business world and imparted some advice to prospective managers and leaders going into the workforce.

The event was put on in an effort to establish one of many senior executive talks on campus in hopes to further expose business students to leaders with real-world experience not typically found readily available in a classroom.

Warner provided some background on the Waffle House restaurant chain and the guiding principles that have kept it around for decades as a staple in American dining.

“There are no participation trophies in business. There’s winners, and there’s losers,” Warner said. He added that there is more to just winning and losing in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage. “You have to win, but you have to do it the right way.”

Warner said that doing things “the right way” for Waffle House includes a number of pursuits—whether it be engaging with customers or giving associates and employees a stake in the restaurant chain’s success. “We want to provide an experience for folks … we try to run each restaurant like its own mom-and-pop small business.”

Warner said he learned through experience that showing up and showing initiative as a leader goes a long way. He referenced this guiding principle to last year’s flooding in Baton Rouge as an example of Waffle House seeing an affected community in peril and taking action, giving away “800 meals a day—for a week” to displaced families who lost everything in the record-setting flood.

Warner addressed the fact that, as a company, Waffle House does not invest in advertising, instead relying on word-of-mouth to reach customers, something founders Joe Rogers Sr. and Tom Forkner strongly believed in.

“My job is to stay true to our culture as a company. I make sure we stay true to our company and [say] what we’re going to do.”

“For us, the challenge is to get people into the culture.”

However, in a world where Waffle House gets millions of hits on social media, it may be easier than ever to indoctrinate consumers into the restaurant’s culture.

Waad Alshehri, accounting major at UNO, initially attended the talk for class credit, but stayed after for the Q&A session.

“I liked learning about how [the company] began and their leadership strategy,” Alshehri said. She noted that she could apply this to her career goal of working in banking as an accountant.

UNO student Greer M. Downs, a senior in business administration, said she can relate to the culture Warner is championing, which she said she sees as an opportunity for development, especially with her interest in business and management.

“Being involved in human resources and management, I wanted to see what Waffle House had to offer.”

Downs admitted she did not know what to expect from the talk, with her perception of Waffle House solely being from the memories she had of dining there as a child, but she was able to view the franchise as “an opportunity for employment.”

She said that attending these lectures her senior year helped pique her interest and think critically about prospective careers in business administration and human resources management.

“You want to keep your options open,” Downs said. “If it’s not in my direct path, at least I’ve given myself the opportunity to know about it.”