While Waffle House is a 24-hour diner, their servers don’t use typical diner slang to communicate orders to the kitchen. The restaurant chain uses its own lingo to employ what they call the “Pull-Drop-Mark” system to take orders in all of its 2100-plus locations throughout 25 states.
“The Pull-Drop-Mark system is what our associates use to ensure our guests get their meal quickly,” Pat Warner, Waffle House's former director of public relations and external affairs, told Mental Floss in 2019. “It consists of the call-in where the server calls in the order using this system. Since we opened in 1955 we’ve used a call-in system for our team. It has evolved over the years as we’ve expanded the menu, however even today’s system can be traced back to the first restaurant.”
Here are some delicious terms you might hear during your next Waffle House visit.
1. The Mark
At every Waffle House, there is a small red tile surrounded by gray tiles on the floor near the open kitchen and grill. This is called “The Mark,” and it’s where every server or sales associate stands when he or she is calling in an order for the grill operator. Servers are only allowed to call in orders from The Mark to make sure only one order is being called at a time.
The Waffle House has used the call-in system since the chain was founded nearly 65 years ago. It’s the best way to get orders filled quickly and served to customers within the company’s eight-minutes-or-less mandate.
The “Pull” refers to all the meats for an order that the grill operator should pull from the refrigerator, be it bacon, sausage, chicken, sirloin—or all of the above. The meats for an order are pulled first because they require the longest amount of cooking time. After declaring “Pull,” the server then calls the amount for the order, based on the standard serving size for each dish.
For example, if a server asks for “Pull one bacon” that means three slices of bacon, which is the standard amount. If a customer wants six slices, the associate would say “Pull two bacon.”
The “Drop” refers to any hash browns being included with an order. A sales associate might say “Drop four,” which means the kitchen should drop four hash brown orders on the grill. After a server calls the amount for the drop, then they may indicate the style, “scattered” or “in a ring.”
If a customer wants their hash browns “scattered” that means they want them broken up and spread out while cooking; if they want it cooked together and compact, the server would call “in a ring.” If a server doesn’t call “scattered” or “in a ring,” the default style is always “scattered.” So if a sales associate calls in, “Drop four, three in a ring,” that means four hash browns, one scattered, and three in a ring.
4. The Plate
When calling in an order of hash browns, the server must give a minimum of two pieces of information: “The Drop” and “The Plate.” The “Drop” is for the amount of hash browns to cook on the grill, while the “Plate” refers to the order that gets those hash browns.
For example, if a customer orders two scrambled eggs with hash browns, the server would call in, “Mark order scrambled plate.” If a customer wants grits instead, the call-in would be, “Mark order scrambled.” All breakfast orders default to grits, so there’s no need to say grits. If a customer wants to skip both the grits and hash browns, then the call-in is, “Mark order scrambled, hold the grits.” (Though why would they want to do that?)
“It’s two different labels for the hash browns,” Warner says. “The ‘Pull’ alerts the cook (or as we call them grill operator) how many hash browns to drop on the grill to get them cooking. The ‘Plate’ refers to any order that has hash browns. Say you get a quarter cheeseburger with hash browns—that’s a 'quarter cheese plate,' so we know the hash browns go on the same plate as the cheeseburger.”
Waffle House sales associates call burger orders “quarter” because it’s exactly a quarter pound of beef, or four ounces. If a customer wants lettuce, tomato, and onions with their burger, then the order call-in is “Deluxe.” So if the call-in is “quarter cheese deluxe,” that means a customer ordered a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and onions.
6. All The Way
Although Waffle House was founded in 1955, it wasn't until the early 1980s that the franchise started to offer toppings on their iconic hash browns. It started when restaurant owners noticed grill operators adding something extra, like gravy and jalapeños, to the hash brown they made for family and friends. It wasn't long before customers began requesting the same toppings for their potatoes, so Waffle House obliged and officially added a range of toppings to the menu in 1984.
Of course, being Waffle House, there was a special spin to these toppings and the call-in lingo for servers and grill operators. Customers can order their hash browns scattered and smothered (with sautéed onions), covered (with melted cheese), chunked (with grilled hickory smoked ham), diced (with grilled tomatoes), peppered (with spicy jalapeño peppers), capped (with grilled button mushrooms), topped (with Bert’s Chili), or country (with sausage gravy). If you're really hungry, or really brave, you can also go “all the way,” which means you'll get all eight toppings served on scattered hash browns.
This story was originally published in 2019; it has been updated for 2021.