KFC Corp. says it's investigating allegations that a restaurant employee in Jackson, Miss., asked a three-year-old girl to leave because her facial injuries disturbed other patrons.
The company is also giving $30,000 US toward Victoria Wilcher's medical bills, a spokesman said Sunday.
The allegation about KFC was made Thursday on Victoria's Victories, a Facebook page following Victoria Wilcher's recovery from a pit bull attack in April.
The administrator posted a photo showing Victoria smiling shyly in spite of her facial scars and cartoon-decorated eye patch, and wrote, "Does this look scary to you? Last week at KFC in [Jackson] this precious face was asked to leave because her face scared the other diners."
'We wish nothing but the best for Victoria in her recovery.' - KFC statement
KFC posted an apology the next morning.
"Please accept our sincere apologies while we try to investigate this incident," KFC responded in a comment to the Facebook photo, adding the company has "zero tolerance for any kind of disrespectful behaviour by our team members."
KFC asked the family to provide more details of the incident, saying it would immediately investigate and take action upon receiving more information.
"We wish nothing but the best for Victoria in her recovery."
"Regardless of the outcome of our investigation, we have apologized to Victoria's family and are committed to assisting them." spokesman Rick Maynard wrote Sunday in an email to The Associated Press. "The company is making a $30,000 donation to assist with her medical bills. The entire KFC family is behind Victoria."
'She won't even look in the mirror anymore'
Her grandmother Kelly Mullins said Victoria had just been to a doctor's office when they stopped at the restaurant. She ordered mashed potatoes for Victoria because she thought the hungry child could swallow the soft food without chewing.
She says she was then approached by an employee. "They just told us, they said, 'We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting our customers,"' she told WAPT-TV.
Victoria wept all the way home and now is embarrassed by her appearance — something that wasn't the case before, Mullins said.
"She won't even look in the mirror anymore," Mullins said. "When we go to a store, she doesn't even want to get out" of the car.
Victoria was attacked by pit bulls at her grandfather's home in early April. The dogs broke her nose, both jaws, cheekbones and right eye socket; the right side of her face is paralyzed and she lost that eye, according to her Facebook site. Her bottom jaw was reconstructed but she needs a feeding tube and must grow more bone in her face before more surgery is possible, it states.
Family picnic offered by local KFC
The page's administrator wrote Sunday that Victoria's Victories had gone from 250 people praying for Victoria to thousands.
The page had more than 32,500 likes on Sunday.
A message posted Friday evening by another Mississippi KFC franchisee, Dick West of West Quality Food Service in Laurel, offered "a big KFC picnic" for the child and her family.
West also wrote that he knows the Jackson restaurant owners "and they have never in the 50 years they have operated in Jackson allowed anyone coming into their restaurants to be treated with disrespect."
In a message to the AP, he wrote, "I am sure KFC will make their finding public as soon as the facts are in. In the meantime, I offered to treat Victoria to a picnic because regardless of the outcome of the investigation, she has been through more than any little girl should and I wanted to give her a special treat."