No 24-hour diner chain inspires quite the same popularity as Waffle House. Since its founding in Atlanta some 60 years back, the restaurant has been elevated to cultural touchstone, now expansive across 25 U.S. states with more than 2,000 locations. Slinging humble breakfast fare 24 hours a day, Waffle House inspires deep and unyielding loyalty in diners like few restaurant chains (except maybe Whataburger) can. Is it the cheap prices? The no-frills atmosphere? Those illustrious hash browns that somehow taste better when you’re intoxicated? The waitresses that undoubtedly call you “honey”? Likely some combination of all of the above, plus a little bit of that inexplicable Southern diner magic – refer to it as the Waffle House je ne sais quoi.
The chain has inspired numerous books, such as a first-person narrative from the former line cook titled As the Waffle Burns in addition to one with a pastor called – naturally – The Gospel According to Waffle House. The chain, which claims to have sold its billionth waffle sometime in 2015, recently saw both its founders, Tom Forkner and Joe Rogers Sr., die in just sixty days of merely one another. Here now, a peek back at the legend, and then for fans near and far, all that you should know about Waffle House.
Your First Step – The initial Waffle House made its debut in 1955 inside the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates. The vision: combine fast food, available round the clock, with table service. Co-founder Forkner once explained how he and Rogers, who were neighbors, started the chain: “He said, ‘You develop a restaurant and I’ll show you the best way to run it.’” They named it Waffle House because waffles were by far the most profitable menu item (and therefore, what they most wanted customers to order).
The first Waffle House is now a museum. The organization began franchising in 1960 and at first grew slowly, but expansion found inside the ’70s and ’80s. Its empire now spans across a complete half of the 50 continental states, and though it’s concentrated inside the South, Waffle Houses can be obtained as far north as Ohio so when far west as Arizona. Waffle House remains a privately held company today – Rogers’s son, Joe Rogers Jr., is currently the chairman – and will not disclose annual sales figures, however in 2005 the business claimed it uses two percent of all the eggs produced in the U.S.
The Secret Waffle House Language. Eating at Waffle House the first time requires becoming versed in a new vernacular – what the hell does “scattered, smothered, and covered” mean? True Waffle House devotees have their own hash brown orders focused on memory, however for everybody else, the menu translates each esoteric term: “Scattered” refers to spreading the hash browns out throughout the grill so that they get crispy all-around – otherwise, they’re cooked within a steel ring – and is probably the mostly commonly heard terms thrown around at WH; many also order them “well-done.” The other topping choices are smothered (sautéed onions), covered (melted American cheese), chunked (pieces of ham), diced (tomatoes), peppered (jalapeños), capped (grilled mushrooms), topped (chili), or country (smothered in sausage gravy). Diners can also just say to hell along with it and order them “all just how.”
Hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered. Like most every other diner, orders at Waffle House are susceptible to plenty of customization, through the various egg preparations (over easy, scrambled, et al) to those signature hash browns. To make sure order accuracy and kitchen efficiency, Waffle House staff have their own own highly esoteric visual coding system. By marking plates with butter pats, mini tubs of grape jelly, as well as other condiments including mayo packets and pickles in a variety of, highly specific arrangements, servers can communicate to cooks what food should be prepared for each plate. For example, to indicate your order of scrambled eggs with wheat toast, a tub of jelly is positioned over a larger oval plate upside down at the six o’clock position. (All the best memorizing this method until you actually work there; everyone else will simply need to look up with awe.)
Famous Everyone Loves Waffle House. Though Waffle House is prized as being a refuge for your common people, a lot of celebrities have also pledged their allegiance. Prominently located just off busy interstates, Waffle House has played host to numerous traveling musicians and earned itself plenty of references: In the track “Welcome to Atlanta,” Jermaine Dupri raps, “After jpgpiy party it’s the Waffle House/Should you ever been here you know what I’m talkin’ about.” One or more rap music video has become filmed in a Waffle House car park, and nineties sensation/current butt of endless jokes Hootie and also the Blowfish possess a cover album titled “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered.” Oddly enough, WH also features its own record label, breakfast-themed cuts (think “Make Mine With Cheese” and “There’s Raisins inside my Toast”) from which may be heard playing on the jukeboxes that occupy each location.