Waffle House's System For Getting Your Order Right Relies On A Ketchup Packet

Diner lingo can be notoriously complicated. You might hear the waitstaff yell to the kitchen at your local mom and pop to "wreck 'em" (for scrambled eggs) or "burn one" (put a burger on the grill). But at Waffle House, a chain known for serving diner-style food at affordable prices, the communication between employees is much more subtle.

TikTok user @Hotsoupandcracker, a self-identified Waffle House cook, posted a video detailing the secret code that kitchen staff uses to indicate what needs to go on each plate. The code, called a "marking system," helps staff remember each order without having to write things down or shout out confusing lingo.

The code involves placing condiments, utensils, and food items at certain spots and angles on the plate; each placement corresponds to a specific menu item. A placard hangs near the grills beyond the customer's line of sight, reminding employees of the system.

Ketchup, butter, and jelly packets have hidden meanings

Waffle House's code may seem simple at first glance. But given all of the possible variations and minor differences in placement, deciphering it can confuse the untrained eye. According to the TikTok video, as well as a Waffle House training video, a jelly packet at the bottom of the plate means scrambled eggs. Add a mayonnaise packet face-down to request lightly scrambled, or face-up for scrambled well. Place a butter packet next to the jelly packet to indicate a biscuit.


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♬ original sound – Waffle man

A ketchup packet below the jelly packet means the customer only wants one egg. An upside-down jelly packet means wheat toast; an apple butter packet means raisin toast.

That's not even a fraction of the whole system, either. The Waffle House training video is more than 20 minutes long and goes into detail about marking for omelets, hash browns, steaks, and more.

Skeptical customers question the code

As fascinating and unique as Waffle House's marking system may be, not everyone was impressed. Some TikTok viewers were perplexed by the complicated system and were even skeptical that it actually exists.

"Bro, why not food tickets, written in a common language, like maybe English," wrote one commenter. "Is this how food is made to order? I'm so confused? Restaurants really do this?" asked another.

Other Waffle House cooks came to the defense of the system, with some posting videos to show how it works and why it's useful. User @Magick_the_Hippie mentioned that Waffle Houses often stay open to feed emergency workers during hurricanes and other disasters, and the system allows the cooks to operate efficiently even in case of power outages.

While these claims haven't been confirmed by the restaurant chain, they're not difficult to believe. The Waffle House Index is a well-known indicator of storm severity throughout the southern United States. If the Waffle Houses in the area have closed, that means there's a particularly high risk of damage or unsafe conditions.