Midvale, UT – A Chili’s restaurant waitress fixed a “broken cheeseburger” for an upset autistic girl. The little act of patience and kindness brought a huge smile to the Utah girl’s face. The hamburger in the 7-year-old’s meal had been cut in half, making the sandwich appear broken.
As virtually any mom can attest, the art of sandwich cutting is extremely important and varies greatly according to child preference. Some youngsters demand the crusts of their sandwiches be completely removed; others want their no-forks-required meal cut into squares or perhaps even triangles.
Arianna Hill did not require nor want any knife to be used on her cheeseburger. The photo and corresponding story Hill’s older sister Anna Kaye MacLean posted to Facebook about the broken sandwich went viral.
MacLean and her husband had taken Arianna out to eat at Chili’s where the little girl proceeded to order her favorite meal. Hill requested a cheeseburger with pickles, French fries, and a cold glass of chocolate milk – a typical kiddo culinary delight. The problem arose when Lauren, the Chili’s waitress, returned to the table and saw the cheeseburger getting cold.
When the Chili’s server asked the little girl why she was not eating her meal, she said, “It’s broken. I need another one that’s fixed.” MacLean said it was then that she realized that seeing the sandwich cut in half made it appear broken to her baby sister.
People with autism often view order and routine as extremely important. Even a small change in the usual procedure or routine can cause a child (or adult) with autism an inordinate amount of stress and anxiety.
MacLean promptly reiterated the request for a new cheeseburger and offered to pay for the replacement. An excerpt from the older sister’s viral Facebook post about the Chili’s broken cheeseburger reads:
“‘I brought you a broken cheeseburger?! You know what, I’ll have them cook you a new one! [waitress said]’ 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 meltdown.
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.”
When the unbroken cheeseburger was delivered to the table, little Arianna gave the juicy sandwich a kiss and said, “Oh I missed you.” MacLean snapped a photo of the kiss, which she shared with the waitress and other staff. The older sister recalled being very touched by the entire Chili’s cheeseburger experience. She also noted that the act of compassion by the restaurant staff literally kept their fun outing from turning into a horrible disaster.