Chili’s Restaurant Workers Give Hope

Published on March 29, 2013

Chilis_RestaurantBy Stephanie Bertorelli
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

As the mom of six and eight year old girls, I value (often beg for) the routine of our lives. Things are always so much better when we can get out of the house by 7:20am for school, when homework is done right away as the girls get home from school and especially when dinner goes smoothly and I am not being entertained by the joyful noise of “what do you mean I have to eat my vegetables?” or “how many more bites?”

I also value the fact that I know that I am lucky. My girls are healthy and happy and even though our routines make our lives easier, I am keenly aware that they are not essential like they are in other families. If we skip homework for a night or if we decide to sleep in a little and rush out the door to school, I know that while it might be frenetic for a moment or two it will be forgotten shortly and we will still get through our day.

Families with children with autism, Down’s or other developmental issues value routines as well but for them those routines are absolutely crucial and not something that they have the luxury of sometimes being able to skip. The comfort that routines and knowing what is to be expected makes these special children feel safe and for the parents and loved ones the routines are able to give them the anchor that will help to keep their children happy and content.

Recently a seven year old autistic girl, named Arianna Hill, was at lunch with her big sister, Anna Kaye MacLean, at a Chili’s restaurant in Midvale, Utah. Because of her autism, Arianna is quite particular about her food. When her cheeseburger was delivered to the table cut in half, she didn’t begin to eat right away.

When her big sister asked her why she wasn’t eating her sandwich, Arianna responded that she couldn’t – because it was “broken”.

Immediately upon realizing that the cheeseburger being cut in half was a potential issue, Anna called their waitress to the table. She explained that she needed to order another cheeseburger, which she would gladly pay for, and that it needed to be served whole.

Instead of being upset, annoyed or irritated, the waitress named Lauren approached Arianna and apologized for serving her a broken cheeseburger. She explained that she would take away the broken sandwich (which is great as it helped Arianna to understand what would be happening) and have the kitchen make a brand new one for her.

While Lauren was working in the kitchen, the manager Bradley Cottermole came to the table and knelt beside Arianna. He again apologized for giving her a broken cheeseburger and assured her that the kitchen was making a new one for her with pickles just like she wished. He even brought her french fries to snack on while she was waiting.

When Lauren returned with the new unbroken sandwich, Arianna was thrilled and said, ‘Oh! I missed you!’ and then gave the sandwich a kiss!

Anna added the account of this story to her Facebook page and in the short time since its original posting; it has received over 800,000 likes and almost 200,000 shares.

I cannot tell you how much that this story made me smile! In the turmoil of the news of the week (the same sex marriage debate, the Monsanto deal, etc), this was simply the most pure and genuine story I could imagine.

I have a friend who is an area manager with Chili’s here in North Carolina and of course I shared the story with him. Just a quick note with the link that said, “pretty incredible company you have there”. His response was just as quick, “yep, it’s awesome!”. Because I have known this friend since we were children, I know that had this been an anomaly in the Chili’s family that would NOT have been the answer I received in return.

Thank you to Lauren and Bradley, for being incredible role models for the people that they work with. Thank you to Anna, for sharing the most heartwarming story I’ve heard in quite a while. And thank you, Arianna, for your enthusiasm for an unbroken cheeseburger!

I don’t know about you, but I have an uncontrollable craving for margaritas and can’t seem to get that song out of my head … I got my baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back…

Image: Chilis Restaurant; author: Anthony92931; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

2013-01-14_10.17.35-2 (1)Stephanie Bertorelli is a publicist and author living in Charlotte, NC. She’s the mother of two girls that she’s raised to say thank you to all officers and soldiers they meet and who also know that they better get the tissues ready for mom when the National Anthem plays. With a passion for sparkly shoes and vintage green dresses, she spends her free time (what free time?) writing, perfecting new recipes and trying out new wines.