One of the two vacant spaces in Tech Square is now slated for occupation. The double-unit space left empty by American Apparel will be filled by an on-campus Waffle House.
The clothing retail store American Apparel vacated their space on Fifth Street in Tech Square last December. At that time, Auxiliary Services began their search for a new option to fill the space, with a focus on dining options. Early in the spring, Waffle House contacted Auxiliary Services through the Department of Real Estate, and the deal was finalized over the summer.
“We try to meet regularly with the students to talk about retail, and late night dining has always come up. We had been talking about a Waffle House on campus since the late nineties,” said Rich Steele, Director of the Student Center. “We had even tried to build out a space for Waffle House in 1997, but they declined, so we are very happy to work with them on this new model now,” said Steele.
Tech Square will not be the first Waffle House that is part of a greater retail space. A restaurant was opened inside of Underground Atlanta last October, and a location is currently in development at Georgia State. The space in Tech Square will, however, have many distinctly Tech elements.
“The booth seating will mimic the Ramblin’ Wreck, with old gold and white stripes instead of what I believe is the traditional red and black booth pattern. They will be using different tile, generally it is red and black tile stripes, and they will be using gold and black tile stripes, and an old gold color on the signs on the interior,” Steele said.
The traditional Waffle House layout will be used on the inside, with a few changes. The current plans for the interior include a row of booths and a bar attached to the food prep area. Rather than using the standard reverse-slope sign on the outside of the free-standing building, the plans for the Tech Square Waffle House include a reverse-slope sign hanging above the food-prep area.
The plans for the space also include Tech-themed artwork, sports murals and even a Buzz statue inside the restaurant, similar to those sponsored by the alumni association’s Buzz Around Town competition last fall. The layout will include an outdoor seating area, as well as a take-out line and a wi-fi seating area and lounge space. The take-out line will serve students within the lounge space as well as students taking food home.
While the model will be distinctly different than most Waffle Houses, operating as a space within Tech Square instead of as an independent building, the on-campus Waffle House will offer the standard menu and also maintain traditional Waffle House hours, open for business 24-7-365.
The restaurant’s ability to attract business outside of the college community was considered during the selection process. “We wanted something that could compensate for the fact that a college is very seasonal, something that could get more community involvement,” Steele said.
The retail and restaurant spaces in Tech Square operate with licensing agreements. so rather than owning the properties that they operate in, they obtain licenses to operate them through Tech’s department of real estate and auxiliary services.
Waffle House has a long history with Tech, with Tech alum Joe Rogers, Jr. at the helm as President and CEO, and Bert Thornton, former President of the GT Alumni Association as Executive Vice President. “The alumni connection was important here. It made a lot of sense, and we definitely value the alumni who have contributed to campus. We have also worked a lot with alumni, such as Jeff Cull, who is in charge of their real estate department (at Waffle House), and the woman who did the design and finishing is a Tech alum,” said Steele.
“We even heard they were bringing back a construction manager who was a Tech alum, since the other guy is a UGA alum and they were afraid he would bury a bulldog in the concrete somewhere,” he added.
The plans for the new Waffle House are still underway. According to Kelly Thrasher, a Waffle House spokeswoman, the restaurant is not scheduled to begin operations until early 2010.