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McDonald's May Have a Fix for Its Biggest Menu Problem

McDonald's may have a solution to a problem with producing one of its most popular taste treats.

An irritating problem for fans of the McDonald's McFlurry and soft-serve ice cream is the constant breakdowns of the ice cream machines that dispense the frozen desserts.

For years, diners have grimaced over being unable to purchase a frozen treat at McDonald's because the machine that makes the McFlurry is out of service. The machines, which are made by Taylor Company, are often reportedly out of commission because they need to be disassembled every two weeks for cleaning, according to a Food & Wine report.  

However, it could also be because the machines reportedly require a mandatory, daily, four-hour pasteurizing process, according to a June 5 CBS News report. Whichever is the case, it means a lot of downtime for those McFlurry machines.

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So Many Machines are McBroken

The problem of out-of-service McDonald's ice cream machines is so big that a website, McBroken.com, tracks the amount of the fast-food restaurant's ice cream machines that are "broken."  On June 5, the website reported that 11.07% of all McDonald's ice cream machines were "broken." 

New York's ice cream machines seemed to have to most problems as 26.53% of that city's McDonald's McFlurry machines were not working, according to McBroken. San Diego had the next highest amount with 19.44% "broken," followed by Philadelphia at 17.5%, Houston and San Jose, Calif., tied at 14.29%, Phoenix at 13.56% and Washington, D.C., at 12.77%.

Now, if one of these McDonald's ice cream machines, which reportedly cost $18,000, actually has a mechanical problem, not just a cleaning or required procedure, then a Taylor certified technician needs to service the machine, according to reports. 

A small California tech startup known as Kytch in 2019 developed a diagnostic device that could troubleshoot issues with the ice cream machines that would allow McDonald's franchisees to bypass Taylor technicians and repair the machines themselves. 

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In May 2021, Kytch filed a lawsuit against Taylor for alleged tortious interference of contract and violation of California Uniform Trade Secrets Act and McDonald's franchisee Tyler Gamble for alleged breach of contract and violations of the trade secrets act. The lawsuit is still pending.

Kytch alleged in the lawsuit that Taylor and Gamble worked together to steal Kytch's trade secrets that led to Taylor's decision to launch its own competing device that "came close to destroying Kytch," according to the lawsuit. 

Beginning in 2003, Taylor began providing ice cream machines to about 14,000 McDonald's locations. The lawsuit alleges that Taylor designed the ice cream machine software so that only Taylor-certified technicians could service and repair the machines. In 2017 alone, 6,500 Taylor certified technicians generated $80 million in revenue for parts and service support, the lawsuit said.

Cracking the Software Code 

Kytch in April 2019 cracked the software code of the machines and used a proprietary combination of hardware, software and machine learning to troubleshoot the machines, the lawsuit said. Kytch said it discovered a flawed code allegedly designed by Taylor that caused the machines to malfunction.

Kytch in the lawsuit alleged that it uncovered a repair racket. It said a number of Taylor's customers at McDonald's reported that Taylor's technicians allegedly made unauthorized changes to software that frequently resulted in expensive and unnecessary repairs. Before Kytch developed its device, only Taylor-certified technicians had the tools and know-how to navigate the machines' volatile operations and software, the lawsuit said.

McDonald's claims that the Kytch device is unauthorized equipment which Kytch never submitted to McDonald's for safety testing, it told CBS News in an email. McDonald's called the lawsuit "meritless," and Taylor said the lawsuit is "built on false allegations," according to CBS News.

Taylor and McDonald's representatives were not immediately available for comment.