ATLANTA, Ga (CBS) — Waffle House co-founder Joseph Wilson Rogers Sr., who went from short-order cook to co-founder of one of the nation’s largest restaurant chains, has died. He was 97.
Georgia-based company Waffle House says Rogers died Friday. No cause was given.
Rogers, born in Jackson, Tennessee, grilled burgers during the day at a Toddle House restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut. At night, he learned accounting and other aspects of the business from the manager and his wife.
After moving to Georgia, Rogers and Tom Forkner opened the first Waffle House restaurant in Avondale Estates, Georgia, in 1955. Company officials say under their leadership, the Waffle House chain grew to 400 restaurants by the end of the 1970s.
Rogers still spent time at the corporate headquarters in Norcross until a few years ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“I’m not an executive, I’m a waffle cook,” Rogers once told the newspaper.
“My father genuinely loved every customer who walked into a Waffle House, and customers immediately understood that,” Rogers’ son, Waffle House Inc. Chairman Joe Rogers Jr., says in a statement. “The customer always came first for him, and he made sure the customer came first for everyone who worked with him.”
Rogers is survived by his wife of 74 years, Ruth Jolley Rogers, the company says.
A memorial service is planned Wednesday at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center in Atlanta.