It’s one of the most enduring mysteries of modern technology: why are McDonald’s ice cream machines out of order so often? It’s inspired countless memes and no doubt thwarted many dinner plans — and now, it’s reportedly caught the attention of the Feds.
The Federal Trade Commission has recently suggested they are looking to investigate why McDonald's soft serve machines are so regularly out of order, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports. Owners of McDonald’s franchises have reportedly complained that the machines require an automated heat cleaning cycle each night that can last up to four hours. If the cycle fails, the machines are rendered useless until a repair technician can fix them.
Following the article by the WSJ, however, McDonalds have since come out to say there’s “no reason to believe we are the focus of an FTC investigation,” according to a statement given to USA Today.
Nevertheless, McDonald’s has previously acknowledged the problem (well, at least their social team did, in a probably-soon-to-be-deleted tweet). In August last year, the McDonald’s Twitter account joked: “We have a joke about our soft serve machine but we're worried it won't work.”
Clearly, something is awry. McBroken.com is a live map that shows the location of all the ice cream machines that are reportedly not working across North America. According to the site, over 11 percent of the machines are currently broken (as of September 3). Over 38 percent are broken in New York, 24 percent in Washington, and 21 percent in Houston.
However, the mystery may go even deeper. YouTuber Johnny Harris recently made a documentary (video above) on the issue of broken ice cream machines at McDonald’s and stumbled across a bunch of intriguing points.
The machines currently used in McDonald’s restaurants are called C602, made by a company called Taylor, and were first introduced in 2003. McDonald’s exclusively uses this particular model, but Harris explains that other Taylor ice cream machines are used by competitor fast-food chains, including Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, and In-N-Out Burger. These companies don’t appear to have the same problem with their machines, so what’s up with the C602?
According to Harris, only Taylor technicians are permitted to fix the C602 machines. Each time it fails, a repair technician from Taylor is sent out to the McDonald’s restaurant where they will fix the machine and pick up a fee from the franchise owner. This mounts up to a steady and reliable stream in income. Harris’ video explains that Taylor obtains around 25 percent of their profits through the repair, maintenance, and parts service of their business. It's also worth noting that Taylor and McDonald’s have been in a close business partnership since the early days of McDonald's meteoric rise in the mid-1950s.
Fortunately, McDonald’s is reportedly looking to address the problem. Harris received an email from McDonald’s PR saying they were working on a "connectivity solution" that will involve software changes to the machines. The company working on this, according to Harris, is owned by Middleby, the mother company that owns Taylor.
Keeping it in the family, I guess.