ABC News Corona Virus Economic Impacts

Waffle House Index, the unofficial barometer for how bad things are, dips into the red

The closures signal how indiscriminate the crisis is on even U.S. businesses.

The so-called Waffle House Index dipped into the red as the company announced late Tuesday it was temporarily closing 365 locations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Georgia-based chain has been lauded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as one of the companies they dub "role models in disaster preparedness," according to a 2012 blogpost penned by FEMA's Dan Stoneking explaining the Waffle House Index.

"If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red. Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters ... it’s rare for the index to hit red," Stoneking wrote.

The Waffle House index "also tells us how the larger community is faring," Stoneking added.

The beloved 24-hour restaurant chain is known for staying open and serving American comfort food amid hurricanes and other natural disasters in recent years.

Earlier this month, a Waffle House employee in Georgia tested positive for COVID-19, the company confirmed.

The hundreds of shuttered Waffle House locations are scattered throughout the entire country, from Louisiana to Ohio, according to a map the company shared on Twitter.

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit businesses across the country in an unprecedented and indiscriminate manner, especially as large swaths of the nation are being asked to stay at home.