When bad things happen within your business, you can’t change the past, but you can choose how you respond. In April of 2018, the Waffle House restaurant chain experienced an unspeakable tragedy at one of its Nashville, TN locations. The incident, involving a gunman, left four people dead and several others injured. No one could have predicted such a tragedy, but the responses of the Waffle House organization and of James Shaw Jr. (the heroic patron who stopped the shooter), offered a glimmer of light in a dark situation.
Three days after the shooting, the Waffle House location reopened and announced it would be donating 100% of its May 2018 sales to support the families of the victims. Waffle House also prominently placed four white crosses in front of the building to represent the lives that were lost. The company is working to erect a permanent memorial as well.
As an individual, James Shaw, Jr. also setup a fund to help the families of the victims. To date, the fund has raised more than $240,000, well-surpassing the campaign’s original fund-raising goal of $15k.
In an interview immediately following the shooting, James Shaw Jr. said he wasn’t trying to be a hero, but he found himself in a position where he knew he needed to take action. In the days following the shooting, Shaw quickly realized he had an opportunity to do something positive with all of the media attention he was receiving, and he felt compelled to take action.
The lesson to be learned from this situation is that whether you are a large corporation or an individual, you have the opportunity to be a difference every day. Your actions and the way you treat others, matter. Waffle House could have remained silent, in an effort to minimize press coverage about a shooting at one of their restaurants. Instead, they responded publicly and demonstrated compassion for the victims.
Nashville residents have vowed to continue coming to the Waffle House because of the restaurant’s quick, decisive actions that supported its community. Society values companies and individuals that prioritize people over profits. Waffle House’s response to this tragedy serves as a reminder that ethical leadership and behavior really do matter.
NASBA CPT Contributor