Gwinnett County

Waffle House co-founder Joe Rogers dies at 97

Waffle House co-founder Joe Rogers Sr. has died at the age of 97.

Rogers, who was born in Tennessee in 1919, died Friday. He is survived by his wife, four children, nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Details on his death are not available.

Rogers and his neighbor Tom Forkner started the beloved breakfast chain in Avondale Estates in 1955. At the time, Rogers was working for the Toddle House chain. In 1961, he left Toddle House to focus completely on Waffle House.

Under Rogers’ and Forkner’s leadership, the Waffle House chain grew to 400 restaurants by the end of the 1970s. They stepped out of the day-to-day running of the business in the late 1970s.

While Rogers was not actively running the restaurants, his legacy of customer service continued. Until just a few years ago, Rogers still went into the Norcross office to check in on the business and offer encouragement to Waffle House associates.


“We’re not in the restaurant business,” Rogers would say. “We’re in the people business.” He built the foundation of the Waffle House restaurant chain on that philosophy.

“My father genuinely loved every customer who walked into a Waffle House, and customers immediately understood that,” said Rogers’ son, Joe Rogers Jr., chairman of Waffle House, Inc. “The customer always came first for him, and he made sure the customer came first for everyone who worked with him.”

Rogers' memorial service and celebration of life will begin at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center.