As another Waffle House fight video goes viral, workers feel unsafe

Many Waffle House workers are familiar with the unruly behavior of drunken patrons that has spawned an entire subgenre of viral fight videos.

Around 90 seconds into the clip, after the crossfire of smaller projectiles, like sugar dispensers and kitchen utensils, a customer hurls a metal chair at an embattled female Waffle House employee. The missile looks destined for the woman’s face but just before it connects, like something straight out of a Keanu Reeves movie, she catches it single-handedly and deflects it effortlessly to the ground.

The clip, filmed in a Texas restaurant in September 2021, was shared online in late December and went viral, racking up several million views. Haile Booth, the chair-deflecting cook in the video—or “Waffle House Wendy,” as she has become known online—has been the subject of fan art and appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson.

Booth is the latest protagonist in a long catalog of Waffle House fight videos that have spanned the length of the Southern and Eastern United States. But beneath the praise for her chair-repelling talents is the reminder that for Waffle House employees, unruly and threatening behavior is an uncomfortably familiar sight.

“We’ve had some rowdy customers in here,” said Blake Jones, a Waffle House restaurant manager in Ashland, Virginia, “especially on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s why you see those videos.”

Jones has more than six years of experience in the food and restaurant industry, but believes Waffle House is a “different breed.”

Waffle House restaurant manager Blake Jones stands in front of the stove at the Ashland, Virginia restaurant, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.

“I’ve had one guy come in here and try and fight me because he had an issue with the food,” Jones said. “and this is 11 o’clock in the afternoon.”

Jones believes some level of disorder is to be expected when the restaurants are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their affordable prices also attract younger populations, and young people are more likely to be both perpetrators and victims of crime.

Some Waffle House locations employ late-night security guards to protect the staff, but Jones’ restaurant does not. Jones said he was aware of some staff feeling unsafe while working the night shifts.

“Once in a while you do,” said Charlotte Chapman, a Waffle House waitress of 12 years. “Sometimes on the weekends, you might get a few drunks that are being obnoxious. But 9-1-1 is very good to us.”

Salt and pepper shakers sit next to a napkin dispenser and ketchup bottle at the Ashland, Virginia Waffle House, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. A recent viral video showed customers and Waffle House employees at a Texas restaurant hurling projectiles at each other in a violent confrontation.

Blake and Chapman both stressed that the troublemakers are only a very small minority of, usually inebriated, customers and that the majority of patrons are respectful, some even go out of their way to help the staff. Chapman pointed to two corkboards adorned with pictures of military veterans that regularly dine at the restaurant and explained that a customer was on their way over with a screwdriver to help her hang them.

Waffle House restaurant manager Blake Jones clears a table in the Ashland, Virginia location, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.

Some of the viral videos are “crazy,” Chapman said, but “Waffle House is not that bad. It is a real nice family place to come to bring your children.”

During her Fox News appearance, Booth explained what had caused the violent outburst. She said she was the only cook working and there had been around 40 diners waiting for food.

“Drunken impatience creates a volatile situation,” she said, speaking for Waffle House workers everywhere, wittingly or not.