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The Week in Ideas, September 2, 2011

Who knew Waffle House was so important to FEMA? Who knew Domino’s could dream so big? Who knew Groupon could hurt your restaurant in more ways than one? Who knew? The Week in Ideas knows.

Idea #1: The Waffle House Index. In the wake of last week’s hurricane, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate let the rest of us in on the different tools the agency uses to measure an area's devastation. Namely among them, The Waffle House Index. "If you get [to an area] and the Waffle House is closed?" Fugate has said. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work." The recognition isn’t random. Waffle House has been recognized for its disaster response, training workers on protocols, bringing in extra gear, how to get back open quickly if power shuts down, etc.

Idea #2: Lunar expansion. Domino’s says it wants to open a pizza place on the moon.

Idea #3: Groupon can be a scam. No, really. An 18-year-old Atlanta restaurant worker figured out a way to make daily deals pay. When customers would come in and pay full price, the industrious young worker would ring them in as if they’d used Groupon and pocket the difference, about $1,200. The worker, Junior Timoteus, is facing jail time.

Idea #4: Rebates for smoke-free restaurants. Oklahoma just started a new initiative that gives restaurants help in paying to convert smoke rooms—allowed under law—to smoke-free spaces. Restaurant owners who take advantage of the rebate program can apply for a rebate of 50 percent of the capitalized expenditures for certain smoking room construction costs, minus any depreciation taken from the expenditures.

Bad Idea of the Week: A guy in Vancouver B.C. didn’t have the cash to pay his restaurant bill, so he told the staff he would rob the gas station down the street and be right back to pay his bill. And that’s exactly what he did. At least he didn’t dine and dash.

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