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Waffle House closes 420 locations amid coronavirus pandemic

Updated 7:29 PM ET, Wed March 25, 2020

New York City (CNN Business) - Waffle House just became the latest restaurant chain to shutter some of its locations amid the nation's novel coronavirus outbreak.

State and local governments across the US have issued Covid-19-related restrictions on public gatherings meant to reduce the spread of the deadly disease. Those restrictions have decimated business for dine-in restaurants throughout the country.

Waffle House acknowledged how severely its nationwide business is suffering in a Wednesday afternoon statement. The company said its sales have dropped about 70% below normal levels since the Covid-19 crisis began.

Only a day earlier, the company had tweeted that 365 of its locations were temporarily closed. That number was revised upwards on Wednesday to at least 420, a Waffle House spokesperson said.

"With so few customers visiting our restaurants, we are rapidly losing the ability to offer enough work hours for our associates to earn money needed to live their lives and pay their bills," the company said. "Waffle House is striving to keep as many stores open for as long as we can in order to support as many associates as possible."

Most of the chain's closures are in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions, according to the company.

More than 1,500 Waffle House locations remain open in "various capacities," the company said, with 135 of them operating on limited shifts. An additional 1,278 locations have limited their business to takeout only.

Waffle House also said 250 of its restaurants are offering "limited-capacity, dine-in service with social distancing protocols in place."

"Hour by hour, Waffle House's reality is changing," the company said in its statement. "We continue to adapt as different restrictions are imposed on how businesses can operate."

Waffle House is known for staying open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even under the most dire of conditions. Most of its 1,900+ restaurants are located in the nation's southeast.

In the past, federal officials have been known to use them as a gauge to determine the severity of a hurricane, tornado or other hazards on a local area.

Government officials in several states, including New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California and Ohio, have ordered bars and dine-in restaurants to temporarily close or limit their business to delivery and carryout orders to comply with social distancing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The mandates have devastated foot traffic and overall business for many local restaurants across the country. Waffle House's website now emphasizes its restaurants offer carryout orders.


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