Broken ice cream machines at McDonald’s restaurants have long been a source of customer frustration and comedy in memes, but a new lawsuit alleges McDonald’s was obstructing technology that would fix the machines.
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Kytch Inc., the plaintiff in the case, was started in 2018 by Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O’Sullivan, who wanted to create an app that would help restaurant owners fix ice cream machines, The New York Times reported. The app was designed to translate often difficult-to-interpret error codes on Taylor-made machines in a way that employees can troubleshoot, CBS News reported.
“We thought we were the solution,” O’Sullivan told The New York Times.
In his lawsuit, Kytch said McDonald’s and Taylor first attempted to access proprietary information in an attempt to create similar technology, before “fabricating false ‘security’ claims to mislead customers of Kytech into believing that safety testing had determined that the Kytech solution would cause “serious human injury” to users – claims that are, and both McDonald’s and Taylor knew at the time to be, patently false.
McDonald’s ice cream machines have a history of breaking down, with the fast food giant even acknowledging the problem in 2020 Tweeter.
A customer frustrated with broken ice cream machines created McBroken, a website that lists McDonald’s locations with working ice cream machines.
The chain’s ice cream struggles have also drawn the attention of the US Federal Trade Commission, which contacted McDonald’s franchisees last summer seeking information on why the machines are so often broken down.
The lawsuit also alleges that McDonald’s and Taylor threatened to void all ice cream machine warranties if Kytch’s technology was used. When McDonald’s told its 13,000 franchises to stop using Kytch at the end of 2020, warning that the device could cause injury, Kytch lost nearly all of its business and was forced to close, reported. CBS News.
“McDonald’s conduct was intended to intimidate and scare Kytch’s customers and potential customers into ceasing to do business with Kytch and instead adopting Taylor’s future competitor product or continuing to use the replacement parts and costly repair services from Taylor and TFG at an astronomical and unnecessary rate.” Kytch’s attorneys said in the lawsuit.
McDonald’s declined an interview request from CBS News, but said via email that the Kytch device is “unauthorized equipment” that has never been submitted to the company for safety testing.
In an emailed statement, McDonald’s USA said, “Kytch told a sensational story without basic facts. The truth is, it all comes down to security. We have set high standards for all equipment in our restaurants, and we owe it to our customers, our team and our franchisees to work with fully vetted suppliers who meet these standards.
The company also said by email that it had filed a motion to dismiss the case and that franchisees had the option of purchasing shake machines from manufacturers other than Taylor, provided they met the company specifications and requirements.
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