At Waffle House, a ketchup packet can be the key to getting your order right

TikTok reveals the not-so-secret system cooks at the chain use to keep track of orders.

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Waffle House
Photo: TRICK T. FALLON/AFP (Getty Images)

Many a nonsensical phrase are actually shorthand for diner orders. “Get me Adam and Eve on a raft and wreck ‘em!” “Burn one, take it through the garden, and pin a rose on it!” “Stretch one and paint it red!” Places that serve breakfast and lunch are typically crowded and fast-paced, and it can be easy to lose track of an order if you’re not hip to the lingo. At Waffle House, it’s not a spoken language that helps keep things straight but a (not-so-)secret code using condiment packets, plates, and utensils.

NewsNation reports that a Waffle House cook took to TikTok to share the system. To the outsider, it can seem pretty complicated, but to long-time line cooks, it’s a piece of cake (though there is no code on record to indicate if a customer wants a piece of cake).

Keep in mind that this is a Waffle House-created system; the plate markings are explained in an official training video. The cooks are told to place a condiment or bit of an ingredient on a plate as each order is called so they’re not relying solely on memory or paper tickets when serving up meals. It’s been in place since the restaurant’s early days. “Back in the day, our grill operators cooked from memory. And over time, a few of them here and there would create their own little (plate markings),” says Waffle House PR director Njeri Boss. “Now it’s a system that’s taught.”

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Here are a few of secret positions that were shared:

  • A jelly packet turned horizontally, and placed near the top of a plate, means the customer wants an omelet with ham.
  • An upside-down mayo packet on or near a butter packet — when the butter packet is on the cook’s board, and not a plate — indicates the customer wants a light waffle. A right-side-up mayo packet means a darker waffle. If the butter packet is upside-down, the customer wants a pecan waffle.
  • Two pickles, placed at the bottom of a sandwich plate, indicate a breakfast sandwich with bacon. Move those pickles to either the left, right, or top of the plate, and it indicates different meats or no meat at all.
  • A horizontal ketchup packet alone in the mid-section of the plate indicates a sirloin. Its position on the plate (nearer the top or nearer the bottom) indicates one of five different steak temperatures.
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One TikTok user calls the system “the periodic table of breakfast.” This is a science lesson we can get behind.