MIDVALE — Employees at the Chili’s Grill and Bar restaurant in Midvale made a little girl’s day when they fixed her “broken cheeseburger.”
Now their kindness and compassion toward the 7-year-old with an autism spectrum disorder is going viral, thanks to a Facebook post.
Anna Kaye MacLean posted what happened on Chili’s national Facebook page. She wrote she was having lunch with her husband and 7-year-old sister Arianna on Sunday.
Lauren Wells greeted them at the table and took their order. Arianna ordered her cheeseburger with pickles, French fries and chocolate milk. When Wells came back with her food, the little girl ate her fries but didn’t touch her cheeseburger — which was strange because cheeseburgers are her favorite food, according to her sister.
MacLean asked her why she wasn’t eating it. “It’s broken. I need another one that’s fixed,” the little girl said. It’s Chili’s policy to cut children’s burgers to make sure the meat is cooked to the right temperature.
MacLean explained to Wells that Arianna had an autism spectrum disorder and wondered if they could get a new burger, uncut.
MacLean wrote: “Lauren was so sweet and just smiled and went along with Arianna, telling her, “I brought you a broken cheeseburger. You know what? I’ll have them cook you a new one.”
It may seem insignificant, but by telling Arianna what she was doing, Wells helped avoid a meltdown, MacLean said.
Wells put in a new order and told her manager, Brad Cattermole, why she was placing a new order, but did not charge them for it. He understood the situation and went to the table to speak to Arianna himself.
“I was like, ‘Did we bring you a broken hamburger?’ And she (said), 'yeah,' and so I told her we’ve got another one coming on the way in just a second. I offered her some French fries to munch on while she’s waiting,” Cattermole said.
Arianna was quite happy when the new cheeseburger arrived. “Oh Fank (sic) you! You fixded (sic) my cheeseburger,” MacLean wrote in her post on Chili’s Facebook page.
Arianna then sat there and for a second just looked at her burger. “Then all of the sudden, she starts kissing it,” Cattermole said.
MacLean said her sister was so happy, she took a photo of Arianna kissing the burger and showed it to Wells. “I think we glorified the cheeseburger too much,” MacLean told Wells.
“Lauren brought the pictures of her (Arianna) kissing the hamburger back and was showing everybody,” Cattermole said. “It was really sweet, really cute.”
Harrison Dixon, managing partner of Chili’s in Midvale said, said people post stories like this on Facebook all the time. “But I had read the email that the manager Brad wrote in our digital log book, basically his side of the story was, ‘I was just making this little girl feel good.’ But it struck such a nerve with that family, they chose to do that.”
The restaurant has received calls from all over the country saying how this had impacted them. Many have experience with someone with an autism spectrum disorder. By Monday afternoon, the original post had nearly 250,000 likes, more than 12,000 comments and nearly 52,500 shares.
“I’m grinning from ear to ear,” Dixon said. “I know if you were to talk to those two, they would just say they are just doing their job. That’s what makes me proud to work for this company and to have such amazing people working for me and with me.”
MacLean thanked everyone at the restaurant. She wrote: “I know … a cheeseburger cut in half literally could make or break our day. In this case, thanks to the professionalism of the crew in Midvale, it made our day. And I’m sure Arianna brightened up at least one of the employees’ days with her silly little personality. Thank you.”
Contributing: Dave Cawley
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company