You just won't find Kid Rock throwing down in an IHOP over a double charge for double hash browns. A Denny's parking lot doesn't smell like a grape flavored blunt. Even Shoney's doesn't suffer from a drunk honky tonker backing his truck through the front window after telling the waitress to "F off because she reminded him of his whore wife".
A Waffle House is a social and socioeconomic phenomenon that is genuinely Southern and at times stereotypically American. The dining room is an intimate environment, with undersized booths and a counter inches away from the line cooks customers are forced to interact... like it or not. As I wait for my All-Star-Special with the hash browns smothered diced and covered I see an entire restaurant that has been forced to use the short order cooks shorthand and is subjected to hearing their endless rants.
Few occupations allow a platform for bitching as well as providing a captive audience with front row seats. Take Kenny for example, a functional alcoholic who always gets the shit shifts and is often the subject of dine and dashers of East Nashville. Kenny, not one to forget a face, remains calm noting that they'll come back. "Once they step back, I don't forget a face, they'll get it", but in all honesty all they'll get is another free meal after they run off into the night.
Franchised like a dog in heat, the yellow and black signs are so close together that smoke signals, tin can phones or shouting could serve as a corporate intranet. Three puffs of bacon grease smoke would mean somebody backed an S-10 through the glass again, one long cloud of waffle on fire smoke would mean a drunk couple were causing a domestic disturbance behind the dumpster and to call the authorities.
The smoke signal communication would only be hampered by the fact that at any given time one half of the employees are on smoke break. Generally there are 2 cooks and 3 people waiting tables. There are also never any less than 5 people on the clock burning a Lucky Strike or Newport. A constant cloud could pose an issue.
Never expect Panera ambiance in a Waffle House, this tinder box of emotion can and will go up at a moments notice. Above the grill are a number of framed rules, added to over time after particularly rough altercations. This may be the only chain to post a series of framed rules that spell out common sense and human decency in detail.
The food isn't what makes a Waffle House special, it's the atmosphere that forces people to interact, leave their car, talk face to face and take turns complaining about where life has taken them. Waffle House is very much like White Castle, disgusting food that you cant help but crave that shares the same customer base as Bud Ice and Steel Reserve. I'll make fun of Waffle House all day but once I see the yellow and black beacon of goodness... I'm at the counter.