by KIM HILSENBECK
Decisions by restaurant managers and owners may have adverse effects on their business, especially now that social media can reach dozens if not hundreds of people faster than a Texas wildfire.
Karolyn Gutierrez of Buda posted pictures on her Facebook page showing bird eggs that were destroyed at a Sonic Drive-In at FM 967 and FM 1626 in Buda.
That message, which said, “Wow … a manager at Sonic ordered a cook to knock down a bird nest that had 4 eggs in it when the mama bird flew off. The bird came back soon after and her nest and babies were gone. The bird was not creating a mess, just trying to hatch her babies. Heartless,” went to all of her 233 friends, many who live in the Buda/Kyle area.
One of the photos showed bird eggs splattered on a sidewalk.
Gutierrez said the responses ranged from “Boo” to “That’s horrible” to “I’m boycotting that Sonic.” Some had unfriendly things to say about the store’s general manager, Aaron Garcia, who ordered the nest knocked down.
While Gutierrez did not advocate boycotting the establishment in her post, the information and photos could have an effect on others when choosing where to spend their money.
Jennifer Diharce was sitting in her car at one of the ordering stations last Wednesday. When she found out about the birds, she looked thoughtful.
“It was inhumane, but I probably won’t stop eating here,” Diharce said. “It’s close to where I work.”
Gutierrez said that she feels that this incident in no way represents Sonic as a company.
“It was Garcia’s decision to remove the nest,” Gutierrez said.
Several employees, including Gutierrez’s daughter Lindsey Gutierrez, 19, asked Garcia not to remove the nest. Some even cried, according to Lindsey, who took photos of the smashed eggs.
“I was texting my mom about it,” Lindsey said. “He (Garcia) said, ‘You’re not going to put that on Facebook, are you? Don’t put that on Facebook.’”
Whitney Tedder, marketing director for Austin Sonic, said the store does have a policy about employees posting information about things that happen at the business.
Lindsey, who has worked at that Sonic since last August, said the birds were not causing any problems and she has never heard any customer complaints about them.
“They were just sitting there,” Lindsey said. “They were not pooping all over anything.”
Lindsey said Garcia had a cook take a broom and knock down the nest while the momma bird was away.
“She came back and was looking all around but couldn’t find her babies,” Lindsey said.
In a written statement, Tedder said Garcia was concerned about providing customers and crew with a safe and sanitary environment to serve food. The statement went on to say the company is deeply sorry that the manager did not seek assistance from animal control authorities before removing the nest.
“I am truly sorry for the way the nest was handled,” Garcia said in the statement. “There is no excuse for the mistake and we will handle any future birds’ nests with respect and according to the guidelines in place by Sonic.”
The statement did not explain the Austin Sonic guidelines with respect to bird nests.
At Palmar in Buda, which has outdoor seating, General Manager Jorge Aguilar said he has seen some baby sparrows around.
“They’re very cute,” Aguilar said, “but if they bothered someone I’d try putting up a bird feeder somewhere away from the patio.”
Kasey Wilkes, co-owner of Bordeaux’s in Kyle, said they’ve had some issues with birds near their outdoor patio.
“Once we knew the babies were gone,” Wilkes said, “we sealed up the holes in the rock wall to reduce places they can nest.”
In the end Lindsey said she doesn’t want to cause a boycott of Sonic over what happened.
“I just want to let folks know that it was wrong,” she said.