If you’ve ever made a sandwich for a young child, you might know that how exactly it’s cut — into rectangles, squares or triangles — and crust vs. no crust can be points of contention.
There was a similar issue with the cheeseburger placed in front of 7-year-old Arianna Hill at a Chili’s restaurant in Midvale, Utah. Hill, it turns out, has autism and wouldn’t touch the cheeseburger that had been cut in half. To her, it was “broken.”
What happened next prompted her sister to write up a Facebook post Sunday that has since gone viral with more than 27,000 comments, more than 199,000 shares and more than a half a million likes.
Anna Kaye MacLean explained in the post that she and her husband took her younger sister to Chili’s where she ordered her usual favorite — cheeseburger with pickles and French fries with a chocolate milk — promptly when the waitress, Lauren, came to get drink orders.
When the food was delivered MacLean said she asked her sister why she wasn’t eating her Krabby Patty, a reference to the hamburger joint in the cartoon show SpongeBob Square Pants.
“She replied, ‘It’s broken. I need another one thats fixed,’” MacLean’s Facebook post read. “Then it dawned on me why she wasn’t eating it. It’s because it was cut in half. Being a child with autism, she has to have certain things in a particular order at all times. One slight change in her routine can change the course of the day instantly.”
MacLean told the waitress when she returned that she needed to order a new burger, which they would happily pay for, that wasn’t cut down the middle. Here’s what happened next:
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!” I loved this because rather than just taking it from the table, she actually TOLD Arianna what she was doing. While this seems insignificant, by her telling Arianna what she was doing, we avoided a melt down. The manager, Bradley Cottermole, then came to our table, kneeled down, and said to Arianna, “I heard we gave you a broken cheeseburger! I am so sorry about that! We are making you a brand new one that isn’t broken, with pickles! I’ll bring you some french fries to munch on while you’re waiting, ok?” A couple of minutes later, Lauren arrived back at our table with cheeseburger #2.
The little girl thanked Lauren for fixing her cheeseburger, turned to the sandwich to say ”OH I missed you!!” and began kissing it. That’s when MacLean snapped the photo posted above and showed it to Lauren who in turn took it to the manager and the kitchen staff who all got a kick out of it.
“I was so touched by this experience. Especially since I know people who have been asked to leave restaurants when their child with autism is being disruptive. I expected a few different things with this scenario based on past experiences, but I did NOT expect such kind and compassionate mannerisms from Lauren and Bradley,” MacLean 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,” she continued. “And I’m sure Arianna brightened up at least one of the employees days with her silly little personality.”
The story has made its way around Facebook but national media and advocacy organizations have taken note as well. Good Morning America reported Chili’s General Manager Harrison Dixon saying he received a call from the president of Autism Speaks to thank him for the work of his staff.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of those two,” Dixon told GMA about the Midvale staff interacting with the family. “I’ve been with this company for 13 years and I’ve never been as proud as I am today.”