ATLANTA — Thomas Francis Forkner Sr., who jumped from real estate to the restaurant business when he co-founded Waffle House in the 1950s, has died weeks after the death of his business partner who helped him create the famous Southern diner chain.
Waffle House said in a statement that Forkner died Wednesday at age 98. Forkner was still selling real estate in 1955 when he opened the Atlanta area’s first 24-hour Waffle House with his neighbor, Joe Rogers Sr. They opened a second location two years later, then kept building the business over the next two decades.
Rogers died March 3. He was 97.
Under Forkner and Rogers, the Waffle House chain grew to 400 restaurants by the end of the 1970s. The Atlanta-based company now has more than 1,500 locations.