The name might suggest a focus on domestic business, but U.S. Waffle Company is spreading its waffle and pancake products around the globe.
“The products that we produce are sold throughout the world,” says John Symons, the company’s CEO. Most of its business is in the United States and Canada, but its products sell throughout North, South and Central America — and even the Caribbean. Symons says sales inquiries have come in from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Before seeking world domination, U.S. Waffle Company started from a procured pancake line of Spartan Foods in 2013 when that company exited the pancake business. And while waffles are prominent in the name, the company only made pancakes briefly before receiving the equipment necessary to produce waffles.
How to make a pancake. How to make a waffle.
The process for making both waffles and pancakes is similar, says Symons, though the two processes use different production equipment. The company makes its products 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday, with occasional work on the weekends if an order requires it.
A worker called a prescaler combines all the minor ingredients for the waffle or pancake, such as salt, sugar, eggs and spices. Then, another worker called a mixer will combine the major ingredients like oil and flour.
The mixture is then shot up into depositors on the ceiling that then place the right amount of waffle or pancake mix onto the line to be cooked. For example, 14 pancakes would be deposited on griddle that are then flipped together to get the pancake cooked through. They are then sent on a cooling belt before being frozen by nitrogen. The pancakes get packaged and are ready to begin their journey to the customer.
Waffles go through a similar process, except they are placed in a grid that goes into an oven and goes through several full revolutions before being sent down the cooling belt to be frozen and packaged according to the client’s requirements.
“We’re really trying to help the community a lot by offering jobs to people who may not get a chance to get a job at a normal place. It’s been very, very rewarding for us as part of our core values as a company.” – John Symons, CEO, U.S. Waffle Company
Symons explains that the ingredients in the batter affect the time it takes to make the waffles and pancakes. It takes about 30 seconds for a pancake to cook and about two to three minutes for a waffle to cook. Using the regular batter, Symons says U.S. Waffle Company can make 20,000 waffles per hour and 23,000 pancakes per hour. However, with a gluten-free waffle, the number might look more like 16,000 waffles per hour.
Soon, Symons says, the company will be adding another product to the company’s offerings. U.S. Waffle Company already creates pancakes that are used for a national breakfast sandwich brand. In the coming months, the company will begin producing its own breakfast sandwiches.
“We feel like that there’s a business opportunity for us to do other types of breakfast sandwiches, because that’s a growing area of the breakfast category,” he says.
“Consumers are time-starved,” Symons says. “They want to be able to grab something out of the freezer, nuke it, walk out the door, eat on the way to work.”
Where to find a U.S. Waffle waffle
U.S. Waffle products are everywhere, according to Symons.
“We mainly are a manufacturer for a lot of national brands,” says Symons — he won’t let slip which ones though. “When you go into any retailer, [whether] it be a discount retailer, a supermarket retailer, any kind of retailer that sells frozen goods, you’re going to see products in there that we produce.”
Each client provides a recipe for U.S. Waffle Company to follow that is unique to that specific company. U.S. Waffle also produces waffles and pancakes for private labels and store-brand items. The company also produces items for food service, including for restaurants, prisons and schools.
After years in a 63,000 square foot production facility on South Florida Avenue in Greenville and a freezer storage and shipping facility on Wade Hampton Boulevard in Taylors, U.S. Waffle Company is opening a larger, 310,000 square foot facility in Liberty in July. The company will increase from four to five production lines with additional room for future ones. The company is expected to hire about 140 people more employees for its Liberty facility on top of its current 365. The facilities in Greenville and Taylors will close.
Giving more than just waffles to the community
The new facility isn’t the only way U.S. Waffle Company is giving back to the Upstate.
U.S. Waffle Company is a Christian-based company, Symons says, and it’s trying to be the best community partner it can be. That includes being a second chance employer where U.S. Waffle hires those who have been formerly incarcerated as well as others who may have issues finding employment. Symons says he has personally made trips to prisons to speak with individuals about the program and to join U.S. Waffle Company once they’re released.
“We’re really trying to help the community a lot by offering jobs to people who may not get a chance to get a job at a normal place,” Symons says. “It’s been very, very rewarding for us as part of our core values as a company.”
At the end of the day, though, Symons is happy that they’ve been able to give back and to continue on a successful path. Brands, he says, come to U.S. Waffle Company because of the quality of its products.
“It’s also rewarding to know that they have confidence in our ability to produce any kind of item, whether it be a commissary type item, or whether it be any type of complicated specialty,” Symons says. “We can do it.”