Famed restaurant chain Waffle House has now closed more than 400 locations across the U.S. and is concerned it may have to lay off nearly 45,000 employees as the coronavirus has turned the national economy on its ear reports CNN. 

In a Facebook post published March 15, Waffle House wrote how its business procedures would change in efforts to protect customers’ safety and keep jobs for their employees during the pandemic.

“We want to acknowledge the great efforts of our Associates, who work hard every shift to create a safe, warm and welcoming dining experience 24 hours daily,” the statement read. “We are working hard to support them as we do our best to manage through this crisis.”

By Wednesday morning, Waffle House announced that 418 of nearly 2,000 restaurants had closed.

In 2004, Waffle House started using the Waffle House Index during hurricanes and other natural disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adapted the system to assess the conditions of areas affected by disaster. 

Former FEMA director Craig Fugate, often credited as a major force behind the program, mentioned how much potential the program had in assisting national relief efforts in 2011. 

"The Waffle House test doesn't just tell us how quickly a business might rebound — it also tells how the larger community is faring," a FEMA blog post explains.

Waffle House President and CEO Walt Ehmer reached out to WSB-TV 2 in Atlanta to provide updates about the breakfast chain's efforts to maintain the business.

"We are trying really hard to provide hours and jobs for people, but when there is no customers, it is hard to continue for a long period of time," Ehmer said.

Ehmer said, to prevent further layoffs, Waffle House is considering reopening their dining rooms with heightened sanitation procedures and restricted access that adheres to recommended social distancing protocols between guests and workers. 

He also said it’s unclear at this point how long the restaurants can stay open. He said last week, they thought they were down 25% in revenue. But this week, they are down 70%. He said if they go down 90%, he’s not sure the restaurants can stay open, which could leave more than 40,000 people without jobs, WSB-TV 2 reported.