Update, November 30, 2021: McDonald’s wants to make it clear that it has nothing to do with any nefarious soft-serve machine activity. A rep reached out to The Takeout with the following statement:
“Nothing is more important to us than food quality and safety, which is why all equipment in McDonald’s restaurants is thoroughly vetted before it’s approved for use. After we learned that Kytch’s unapproved device was being tested by some of our franchisees, we held a call to better understand what it was and subsequently communicated a potential safety concern to franchisees. There’s no conspiracy here – McDonald’s has never attempted to copy or steal Kytch’s technology.”
The rep goes on to say that the company knows how frustrating it is when these machines are broken so they’ve built a dedicated team to check up on them more consistently and are giving crew members more training resources to keep the ice cream flowing smoothly. Only time will tell if those tactics will in fact be successful. Here’s hoping the numbers over at McBroken.com start drastically dropping.
Original post, November 29, 2021: We’ve all been burned by the McDonald’s ice cream machine. It’s more of a miracle than a regular occurrence when you actually can get a sweet twisty soft serve snack. WIRED reports that a small startup called Kytch sold a small device allowing workers to hack into the machines and diagnose the problems to Taylor, the manufacturer of the soft serve machines. What the startup found out in recent months, however, is that Taylor doesn’t seem very interested in fixing the machines at all, actually, and the company’s intentions with Kytch are much more devious than imagined.
In a lawsuit, Kytch accused Taylor of conspiring to copy its ice cream machine hacking device and sabotage the startup. It’s the stuff of a fast-food based spy novel, and in WIRED’s telling, Taylor is very much the villain. These people don’t care if you get your tasty ice cream! All they want is power!
And it seems like McDonald’s is in on it, too. Despite the very real statistic that at least 10% of the chain’s soft serve machines are typically broken at any given time (you can check real-time numbers thanks to data gathered at McBroken.com), McDonald’s released a memo in 2020 telling franchises that the device posed a physical safety risk, encouraging those locations to upgrade to Taylor’s latest model, the Shake Sundae Connectivity—a model that has yet to actually hit the market.
If you’re thinking about giving the two major corporations in this story the benefit of the doubt (but why would you?), hold onto your hats! Because the next twist proves they know exactly what they’re doing.
Six months ago Kytch sued Taylor over the alleged sabotage, claiming that the company went so far as to hire a private investigator to buy a Kytch device for intel. While Taylor first denied all wrongdoing, recent internal communication dug up as part of the investigation reveals otherwise. Kytch was mentioned in more than 800 pages of Taylor’s internal communications and presentations, in many cases outlining how the next soft-serve machine could mimic Kytch’s device.
The WIRED piece goes into great detail on the court filings, poking holes in the most recent responses from Taylor and McDonald’s. But the TL;DR? Don’t expect your friendly neighborhood McDonald’s soft serve machine to be glitch-free anytime soon.