Fort Myers, FL – Employees at a Burger King restaurant in Florida have been accused of putting dirt in a burger they sold to a police officer, but the franchisee claimed it was only seasoning mix.
The alleged incident occurred at the Fort Myers Burger King restaurant on Cleveland Avenue, according to a Tuesday night Facebook post by a user named “Mac O’Durham.”
The post included a photo of the officer’s Burger King drive-thru receipt, which was emblazoned with the word “POLICE.”
O’Durham has since been identified as Fort Myers Police Officer Tim McCormick, The News-Press reported.
In the photo caption, Officer McCormick identified himself as an “officer” and said that he had stopped by the restaurant to grab a quick bite to eat.
The officer said he noticed a gritty texture in his food, but initially thought it was burned bits of bacon.
“At first I thought it was just burned old bacon. I was hungry and ate the burger,” Officer McCormick explained. “At the last bite I saw dirt and grit on the burger. In disgust, I threw it out of the window.”
The officer grabbed his receipt, and realized it was specifically marked as an order for “POLICE.”
“This had never been the case previously,” he added.
He promptly returned to the restaurant and went inside with the intent of speaking with the manager.
According to the post, a female staff member in the drive thru spotted him and asked, “What the matter officer? Something wrong with your order?”
The staff member and other employees then burst into laughter, Officer McCormick recounted.
The officer explained the situation to the manager, but said he received little support.
“Sorry, what do you want me to do?” was the manager’s reply, according to Officer McCormick.
The frustrated officer says that he later contacted the Burger King corporate office, but claimed that they blew him off.
“Not our problem,” they said, according to the post. “We’ll have the franchise owner contact you.”
Although the store owner did give him a call, Officer McCormick said that his complaint was disregarded.
“It is impossible for dirt to get into food,” the owner argued, according to the officer. “You’re crazy!”
In his post, Officer McCormick cautioned other first responders and told them to be careful where they purchase meals while on duty.
“Some [days] we first responders just want to grab a quick bite because we are overwhelmed with calls, and this is how we are treated,” he wrote. “So to my brothers and sisters I say this. Only eat at safe places and check your food beforehand.”
On Wednesday, CEO and chairman of Quality Dining Inc. Dan Fitzpatrick, the franchisee who operates the restaurant, said that he immediately launched an investigation as soon as he was made aware of the officer’s complaint, The News-Press reported.
“This has had my full and undivided attention,” Fitzpatrick said.
The franchisee said he invited Fort Myers police officials to view surveillance footage of the cooking process on the day Officer McCormick was served his meal, but that nothing inappropriate was seen on the video.
“Burger King took it very seriously,” Fort Myers Police Capitan Jay Rodriguez told The News-Press. “We hope it can get resolved. There was no malicious intent.”
Fitzpatrick said his best guess was that the Officer McCormick had mistaken the restaurant’s spice mix particles for dirt.
According to Fitzpatrick, the employee typed “POLICE” on the receipt because staff members are required to ask customers for their names during the ordering process.
Officer McCormick identified himself only as “police officer,” Fitzpatrick explained.
"We hope the officer will post something, in whatever manner he chooses," he added. “We love these guys.”
Neither Officer McCormick nor the Burger King corporate office has responded to Blue Lives Matter’s requests for comment.
This latest allegation of Burger King employees mistreating police officers came less than two months after deputies in a marked patrol vehicle were denied service at a Burger King restaurant in St. Francisville, Louisiana.
Two Assumption Parish sheriff’s deputies had just completed a day of SWAT training in a nearby town, and stopped at the restaurant on their way back to their own jurisdiction, Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office Public Information Director Lonny Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter at the time.
The deputies saw employees working inside the store, and pulled around the back of the business to the drive-thru lane in their marked patrol vehicle.
“They sat there for an extended period of time before someone finally let them order,” Director Cavalier explained.
But when one of the deputies ordered a chicken sandwich, the female inside cut him off.
“We’re out of chicken,” she said sarcastically.
The deputy began to order a Whopper instead, but was interrupted by a male’s voice.
“We’re out of burgers, too,” the employee said.
The deputies then asked the employees if the items were out of stock, or if they just didn’t serve police officers.
“The only response was laughter,” Director Cavalier said.
The shocked deputies waited at the drive-thru speaker, but when the employees continued to ignore them, they pulled ahead to the payment window.
They parked for a moment, then one of the deputies exited the patrol vehicle and stuck his head inside the window to speak with someone.
“He could hear them inside laughing, but no one would come to the window,” Director Cavalier explained.
The deputies then left the restaurant, and later told their supervisors about the encounter.
“They were embarrassed and humiliated,” Director Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter. “This is new for us. We’ve not had that kind of relationship with any vendors, ever.”
He reached to Burger King’s corporate headquarters several times, but didn’t hear back. So, he wrote a letter to the editor of The Bayou Pioneer and outlined the treatment the deputies had received at the Burger King restaurant.
Director Cavalier received a call from the St. Francisville store owner approximately one week after The Bayou Pioneer printed his letter, he said.
“He was very angry. Very upset,” the director recalled. “He said, ‘My employees never refused to serve any police officers.’”
The store owner then alleged that Director Cavalier’s story was an “outright lie,” and that the employees had only refused to serve “people who just happened to be police,” he said.
“So, I asked him if they refused to serve those specific officers, and he admitted that they did,” Director Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter.
The director noted that the store owner’s “play on words” was “virtually laughable.”
“All we were looking for was a fair shake,” he said. “Not an excuse – just an explanation.”
According to Director Cavalier, instead of apologizing, the Burger King franchisee demanded that the Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office issue a press release to retract the allegations against his business.
He also wanted the agency to apologize to his store.
“I told him, “Don’t wait, because there will be no retraction,” Director Cavalier vowed. “I was dumbfounded.”
Despite the delay, it appeared that the fast-food store’s corporate executives got Director Cavalier’s message and eventually intervened.
Director Cavalier said that a representative from corporate Burger King suddenly showed up with the local franchise owner, Joe Clements, for an unscheduled visit with Assumption Parish Sheriff Leland Falcon on the evening of June 22.
“I believe that [Burger King’s] corporate office saw that there was an issue,” Director Cavalier told Blue Lives Matter the following day. “They came down here and did extend their deepest apologies. We’ve accepted their apologies and hope to move on from here.”
“There was a meeting late yesterday evening into the night, and we were very pleased with the outcome. And the sheriff is very pleased with the outcome, and that’s that,” Director Cavalier said.
“We feel we’ve been up front [about what happened] all along, and that our guys deserved an apology, and we got it,” he said.