FEMA has coined a "Waffle House Index" to indicate the severity of a disaster.
FEMA has coined a "Waffle House Index" to indicate the severity of a disaster. - 

Jeremy Hobson: It's Valentines Day, and if you don't have the cash for expensive flowers or a fancy dinner for your sweetheart, look no further than the restaurant chain Waffle House. The company is transforming more than 100 restaurants into Valentine wonderlands.

From WABE in Atlanta, Jim Burress reports.

Carol Hamlin: This is Carol.

Jim Burress: This Valentine's Day, Carol Hamlin is ready to create an ambiance for lovers.

Hamlin: Yeah, we're gonna be doing candlelight dinner at the location at Clairmont Road and Peachtree Industrial. How many is gonna be in your party?

She's busy taking reservations. That's right. Reservations. At Waffle House. Carol says they're a good idea, because there are plenty of takers for Valentine's Day, the Waffle House way.

Hamlin: Most of the people that come and do it, they love it because it's a different kind of romance they get to have.

She says you never know who's going to drop by. Like the wife a few years ago who surprised her husband.

Hamlin: He had on a tux, and she had on an evening gown, and they come walking in the door. And she un-blindfolded him, and he was absolutely ecstatic. So we have all different kind of people.

No formal attire for Sandy Apple and her husband, Ron. But they do plan to spend Valentine's here, just like they have for the past four years.

Sandy Apple: The first time we came and it was decorated with tablecloths and votive candles on the table, it was um, kind of nice!

Kelly Thrasher is a Waffle House spokeswoman. She says a district manager got the idea five years ago.

Kelly Thrasher: So he set up the Valentine's evening at one restaurant. And then from there, we put it out to the whole company, and it just kept growing each year.

One hundred thirteen Waffle Houses from Texas to Pennsylvania now offer the special night. Thrasher says Valentine's Day has become one of the busiest days for participating restaurants.

So on this Valentine's Day, smatter, smother and cover your love -- and still have a few bucks left in your pocket. And if Waffle House is still too pricey for your taste, the fast-food chain White Castle is also dressing itself up this Valentine's Day.

In Atlanta, I'm Jim Burress for Marketplace.

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