I was sitting in at the high-bar at a Waffle House this morning and discovered something intriguing as I watched the short-order cook prepare orders. They communicate with condiments...
Thanks to Mahlen and Amit for emailing me about it. And thanks to Adam for submitting the tip to Boing Boing. Boing Boing is like MTV for hip internet users. Since my photo was posted on their website, over 17,000 people have clicked on it in 24 hours.
Once the order has been called, the grill operator uses a system called "pull for production" wherein needed items (like bread and eggs) are pulled when the order is called so that they can be cooked a short time later. Similar systems are used by many short-order restaurants and diners.
Variations of this system have been developed as well, such as the "Magic Marker" system developed by a Waffle House grill operator named Michael Donnelly in Clanton, Alabama. In this system, in addition to the standard "pull for production" system, item orders are tracked by a notation system in which condiment packets are arranged on plates to indicate the final order (such as a jelly packet to indicate eggs, whereupon the packet's orientation on the plate determines how the eggs are to be cooked), with the goal being that the grill operator can simply glance at a plate to determine what needs to be done to fill the order. As of 1997, this marking system was adopted as the official system for all corporate-owned Waffle House locations. Many franchises still use the "pull for production" method, however.