Why McDonald’s ice cream machines are always broken

By: Toby Martin-Kohls

There are many globally recognized symbols, such as the peace sign or a heart. There are also many globally recognized brands such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Mcdonald’s.

The Golden Arches are a worldwide recognized symbol. In 2019, Mcdonald’s had 38,695 restaurants in 119+ countries.

They pride themselves on the consistency of their food. Fries at one location should, and will, taste exactly the same at a location 3000mi away.

However, one item stands out as an exception from this philosophy; there always seems to be a broken ice cream machine at Mcdonald’s. The issue has been so widespread it has become a joke and a meme of sorts.

Several mainstream fast food companies such as Wendy’s, Burger King, In-n-Out, and Chick-fil-a use ice cream machines from the same company McDonald’s uses, but only McDonald’s seems to be the ones that never work.

Mcdonald’s uses the model C602 machine made by a company named Taylor. McDonald’s and Taylor go way back and have been business partners since each was established. Even their headquarters are close to each other in the state of Illinois.

93% of McDonald’s restaurants are franchised. This means that they are owned and operated by independent local business owners. This means they are left to pay any repairs needed.

When you become a Mcdonald’s franchisee, you sign a contract with McDonald’s agreeing that you will abide by their rules and regulations and make sure the restaurant is standardized to the rest of the brand.

In 2003, McDonald’s put in their agreement that all franchisees would be required to use the C602 model from Taylor.

Ice cream is dairy, and it is needs to be stored correctly in order to be safe to consume. The machine has a bunch of pipes that run through it all day with ice cream. So once a day, a cleaning cycle must be completed.

The cleaning process takes about 4 hours and is usually the first reason you are given as to why the ice cream machines are not working. Because the process takes so long, it makes sense to run the cleaning cycle overnight.

The first employees coming in the next day would see one of two messages on the user interface. The heat cycle was complete and that the machine was ready to use or that the cycle failed. The machine does not tell you what the problem was, and only that it failed.

It is worth noting that the machine cannot be used until it runs a cleaning cycle. It is locked until it has been completed. So the employee tries to run the heat cycle again. This takes another four hours during operating hours of the store.

So, a franchisee must call a repair technician from Taylor if they want their machine fixed. Taylor is the only company authorized to repair or maintain these machines for Mcdonald’s. If they called anyone else to fix it, it would void their contract.

According to invoices from some Mcdonald’s franchisees, the repair technicians are quite expensive. One can expect to pay around $150 for the first half-hour of labor and travel and hundreds more dollars for each additional 15 minutes of extra labor.

This is the decision franchisees must make. They can deal with angry customers who want ice cream, or they can fork over tons of money to get their machine fixed that very well might break again soon.

According to an acquisition pitch from Taylor, they stated that 25% of their revenue comes from recurring parts and services business. Taylor can rely on machines breaking and having income from McDonald’s.

Taylor provides an instruction manual to the restaurants for the machine but provides a different use for exclusively Taylor technicians. The information needed to fix the machine effectively is only given to technicians.

Jeremy O’Sullivan and Melissa Nelson set out to create a product, the Kytch device, that would help restaurants diagnose problems easier from the intentionally tricky UI. They succeeded and was a hit, as many restaurants started using their product. McDonald’s then sent out a memo that “McDonald’s and Taylor have recently determined that the Kytch device creates a potential very serious safety risk for the crew or technician attempting to clean or repair the machine.” They strongly recommended that franchisees stop using the product and that they will void their warranty if they don’t.

McDonald’s is in contact with another approved company to solve the same issue Kytch solved. Their partner is Powerhouse Dynamics. Well, good thing it’s not Taylor. Well, just on the outside. Powerhouse Dynamics is owned by the same company that owns Taylor. Their device takes the place of Kytch and still gives the user frustrating interfaces so that they can make money off repair services.

Taylor has no incentive to improve their product because they hold a monopoly in the ice cream maker business and again, make 25% of their revenue of on repair services. McDonald’s is okay with this because the financial burden falls on the restaurant franchisees.

Kytch is currently suing McDonald’s for 900 million dollars. They are also suing for defamation.

If you want to see if the McDonald’s near you, or anywhere, has a broken ice cream machine, you can look at mcbroken.com.

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