Burger King responds after mother accuses employees of calling her son 'the R-word'

Dillon Thompson

A Burger King in Illinois is using its food to apologize after an incident involving a child with down syndrome stirred controversy for the restaurant chain. 

Holly Simon was at a Burger King in Chicago's Mount Greenwood neighborhood when the alleged incident occurred, according to the Beverly Review. Simon said she was standing in line with her son, Nate, who has down syndrome, and his friend Brian Martin, who also has special needs, when she overheard several employees talking behind the counter. 

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According to Simon, the workers' comments included "the R-word," which she took as a cruel reference to her son and his friend. She reportedly addressed her concerns with the employees, later describing the ordeal in a Facebook post.

"I exclaimed, 'Did I just hear you right?'" Simon wrote. "Laughing ensued."

The mom went on to describe more from the incident, accusing the workers of using other curse words "in front of little kids" and noting that their manager "could care less."

"I said, 'I won’t allow this in my neighborhood,'" she said. "This is my neighborhood. And, it’s Nate’s neighborhood, and it’s Brian’s. I was so disheartened by the [employee’s] response... I literally didn’t know what else to do other than leave."

Simon said her son was crying when they exited the restaurant. 

"We all need to stand behind kindness. Poor Nate left in tears," Simon wrote. "You think they don’t hear you?"

Simon continued berating the restaurant for its workers' behavior, including continued posts on social media and phone calls to the company, demanding an apology. Now, the mom said she's gotten what she asked for. 

The Beverly Review reported that on Tuesday, Burger King delivered 80 orders of chicken nuggets, 80 orders of fries and 80 paper crowns to the special-education department at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, where both Nate and Brian are students.

Burger King's donation came after the company's previous apologies to Simon, which she said were already very sincere.

"They couldn’t have been kinder," Simon told the Beverly Review. "They followed up. I said, ‘I promise to give you as much good PR as I did bad.'"

It's unclear what else the company told Simon in private, but the mom did share part of a message from Burger King's social media team on her on pages.

"We understand the gravity of the situation," Burger King told Simon following the October incident. "Please (direct message) us ASAP with more information, including the location address, the date/time of your visit and your contact info."

Simon, who also received an apology from the manager at the Mount Greenwood location, Bill Peterson, told the Beverly Review that she doesn't want "four bad apples to ruin a business," but does hope that the situation will have a "ripple effect."

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