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By fixing 'broken' burger, Utah waitress saves the day

Published March 27, 2013 7:35 am

Facebook • Posting of Chili's kindness toward autistic child goes viral.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sometimes, even cheeseburgers get broken.

And when they're fixed, and word gets out that in the eyes of a small child all has been made well with the world, it's enough to bring a smile to hundreds of thousands of people.

The story of 7-year-old Arianna MacLean and her experience Sunday at the Chili's restaurant in Midvale has gone viral thanks to an account and photo her sister posted on Facebook. The post has generated more than 625,000 likes, been shared nearly 145,000 times and resulted in a whopping 35,000 comments.

When Arianna, who is autistic, went with big sister Anna Kaye MacLean to Chili's, she was excited.

"[She] didn't waste any time when our waitress, Lauren (Wells), greeted us at our table," her sister wrote. "Arianna promptly ordered her cheeseburger with pickles, french fries and chocolate milk before Lauren could even take our drink order."

After the food arrived, though, Arianna wouldn't touch her cheeseburger. It had been sliced in half to make it easier for a child to handle.

Arianna wasn't expecting a cheeseburger that had been cut in two. "It's broken. I need another one that's fixed," she said.

MacLean said that being a child with autism, Arianna has to have certain things in a particular order at all times. Once slight change in her routine can change the course of the day instantly.

MacLean wrote that when the waitress returned to the table, MacLean asked if they could order another cheeseburger and add it to the bill. "I told Lauren I knew it sounded silly, but if we could just order an additional one we will gladly pay for it because there was nothing wrong with the one that was originally brought out."

Instead, the waitress smiled and, speaking to Arianna, said, "I brought you a broken cheeseburger? You know what, I'll have them cook you a new one."

And when the manager Bradley Cattermole came to the table, he showed just as much care and concern for Chili's young guest. "I heard that 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!"

A couple of minutes later, Lauren arrived back at the table with cheeseburger number two.

"Arianna said, 'OH FANK YOU! You fixded my cheeseburger.' " When the waitress walked away, MacLean wrote that her sister sat there for a second and looked at her new burger. "She looked like so deep in thought . . . just staring at it . . . then she let out a big, 'Oh I missed you!' and started kissing the burger over and over again."

The simple act of kindness was enough to make MacLean's and Arianna's day.

"I know people who have been asked to leave restaurants when their child with autism is being disruptive," MacLean wrote. "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."

Harrison Dixon, general manager of the Midvale Chili's restaurant, said that since MacLean posted her experience on Facebook, he has gotten calls from all over the country thanking him and praising Wells and Cattermole.

"It has been awesome, overwhelming" Dixon said. "We're grateful that she [Anna MacLean] took the time to write about her experience. And what is great about it is that I'm sure Lauren and Brad really didn't give what they were doing a second thought. It is just the kind of people they are, and I'm proud to work with them."






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