ORLANDO — A 2-year-old boy was accidentally served sangria instead of orange juice at a Lakeland Olive Garden last month, prompting Orlando-based Darden Restaurants to caution its employees to be more careful with alcoholic drinks.
Earlier this week, a toddler was mistakenly given a small amount of alcohol at a Detroit-area Applebee’s restaurant — because a mixed drink was mislabeled as apple juice.
Jill VanHeest of Lakeland said she took her son Nikolai to the hospital after the March 31 incident, where he was given fluids and released a couple of hours later. He has suffered no lasting effects, she said.
Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers blamed the error on “a failure to follow our strict operating procedures.
“The person poured the wrong container into the child’s cup,” he said. “We have absolutely no tolerance for failure to follow our operating procedures. We took swift and appropriate action to deal with the situation.”
But Jeffers would not say whether anyone was fired or give details about how the restaurants try to keep such mistakes from happening.
VanHeest said it took employees about a half hour to realize something was wrong. She said she noticed a problem when Nikolai began acting up.
“His eyes were completely dilated and red,” she said.
A waiter removed the child’s drink and said he needed to get her a new one, but didn’t tell her anything more, she said.
“When he came back, I said, ‘I need to know what was in the cup in case he has some kind of reaction,’ ” said VanHeest, who owns a restaurant with her husband. “He said, ‘the manager will be right over, but it was tropical sangria.’ ”
VanHeest has an attorney but isn’t sure whether she will sue. VanHeest’s attorney contacted the news media in Tampa this week after reports surfaced that a Michigan Applebee’s accidentally served a margarita to another toddler.
After the accident, Applebee’s said it will now pour apple juice from single-serve containers served at the table.
But Jeffers said no such changes are going to take place at Darden’s restaurants, which also include Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse.
“There’s nothing that we’re going to change,” he said. “We think our standards are very strong. In this case, it was a failure to follow them.”