Open 'House': 24-hour Restaurant Chain Opens June 9 on Fifth Street
Game day dining will come with a new side order. Actually, it’ll come with quite a few of them.
Perennial southern restaurant stalwart Waffle House will start making eggs, bacon, hash browns, Bert’s chili, burgers and—of course—waffles, starting June 9 at 9 a.m. Located on Fifth Street, the restaurant will bring true 24-hour dining to Tech’s campus.
Building a storefront restaurant is something of a departure for the 50-year-old restaurant, as only one other similar location exists in Underground Atlanta. District Manager Travis Bell—a College of Management alumnus and former Tech football player—will oversee both locations.
“I tell people I’m the only district manager who doesn’t have a parking lot,” Bell joked. “It’s great to be here finally. This was supposed to open a year ago, and then it was delayed. It’s like coming back to the high school or college where you played football, and being on the staff.”
The Waffle House business model is preserved within the location, as the restaurant has a small number of booths and counter space for people to sit and eat. But several aesthetic changes have been made to accommodate Tech’s students, faculty and staff, as well as the Institute’s heritage.
“Waffle House took a totally different approach with this location,” said Rich Steele, acting executive director of Auxiliary Services.
“While they didn’t change their very successful model, the focus in this location is on the history and tradition of Georgia Tech. The accent tile is gold, not red, and the white-and-gold bench in the waiting area is modeled after seats in the Ramblin’ Wreck.”
Steele also points out that the mural above the booth seating area not only showcases significant events in Waffle House history, but also significant Georgia Tech events.
Some other changes have been made, as well. This particular restaurant will have a Wi-Fi “lounge” and an outdoor patio area. Patrons can order their food to go and then sit in one of these areas to use their laptops, phones or other devices. There will be no “food service” in these areas, however.
“This isn’t a big change for us,” said Pat Warner, vice president of marketing and communication with the Norcross-based Waffle House. “Our second restaurant in 1957 on 10th and Peachtree streets was set up the same way. We’re not doing anything that changes up the concept we’ve been doing since 1955.
“When people come in, it’s going to be clear it’s a Waffle House. Our biggest change will probably be for students to take advantage of the Wi-Fi area.” Another location is planned for Georgia State University, Warner says, but it will not have a Wi-Fi area.
“It’s a great relationship,” Steele said. “Waffle House has been a strong supporter of Georgia Tech for a long time. There is a long tradition and history between Tech and the restaurant.”
And Steele said the success of this venture will be looked at by a much larger audience than just the Atlanta area. “College campuses around the country are watching to see how successful this is.” Steele said that many universities do not have 24-hour dining on campus, so this could lead to new business partnerships for auxiliary services across higher education.
The first Waffle House restaurant opened in Avondale Estates in 1955, the collaboration between Atlantan Joe Rogers Sr. and real estate agent Tom Forkner. By 2006, the chain had grown to 1,500 locations.