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McDonald's Broken Ice Cream Machines Reveal Franchisor's Deep Dysfunctions

The rise and fall of Kytch, a device invented to ease the burden of owning a Taylor ice cream machine and save McDonald’s franchisees thousands in maintenance costs.

McDonald’s is allegedly preventing its franchisees from fixing the chain’s perpetually broken ice cream machines, according to a recent report from Wired. The report details McDonald's' ice cream machine manufacturer as actively working to keep the franchise's ice cream machines inoperable, despite a new startup promising a quick fix.

McDonald’s system standard Taylor ice cream machines famously break down all the time. A website called determined that between five and 16% of these ice cream machines are out of service at any given time.

But it’s not necessarily the rate at which these machines need service or the fact that they cost $18,000 that frustrates owners, according to the report. It’s that franchisees are prohibited from servicing the machine because Taylor hides critical diagnostic information in a secret menu. This forces the franchisees to pay thousands of dollars each year to Taylor-approved contractors to fix the machines.

A company called Kytch sought to ease this burden with their invention, a small device that connects directly to the ice cream machine and provides owners with real-time diagnostic data and analytics. Essentially, Kytch gave owners access to the “secret menu” and allowed them to repair most of the machines’ issues on their own.

One McDonald’s franchisee told Wired that Kych saved him thousands of dollars every month in maintenance costs.

Sales for Kytch boomed as McDonald’s franchisees bought devices quickly. But several months later, McDonald’s sent a letter to all of its franchisees warning that not only did Kytch devices void the machine’s warranty, but it also “creates a potential very serious safety risk for the crew or technician attempting to clean or repair the machine.” Franchisees told Wired they found the claim far-fetched. The letter recommended removing Kytch devices immediately.

McDonald’s then announced the release of the Taylor Shake Sundae Connectivity machine, a seemingly identical device to the Kytch. 

As Kytch is now in the midst of legal battles with McDonald’s, Taylor and individuals within each company.