McDonald’s tried to drive company fixing their ice cream machines out of business

Kytch founders Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O’Sullivan
In “this needs to be a documentary and/or made into a series” news, a company called Kytch is suing McDonalds for $900 million. Kytch developed a device that could be inserted into McDonald’s’ ice cream machines. The little Kytch computers provide monitoring services and override the software that causes the machines to frequently glitch and malfunction. As you surely know, McDonalds has the sh-ttiest ice cream machines in fast food. Their ice cream machines are broken so often they’ve spawned countless memes and a website tracking whether they’re working called McBroken. According to McBroken, over 10% of McDonald’s’ ice cream machines in the US are currently not working. That seems low actually, although you’re SOL if you’re in NY where over 40% of machines aren’t working. Kytch can solve that issue for franchises and was making headway with their proprietary devices. In return McDonald’s lied about the potential security risk from Kytch, banned their use and worked to drive Kytch out of business. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating McDonalds and the company manufacturing the machines, Taylor, since last year. Kytch is now suing McDonalds and Taylor for $900 million. Wired has the story and it’s fascinating:

Tiny startup Kytch worked to invent and sell a device designed to fix McDonald’s notoriously broken ice cream machines, only to watch the fast food Goliath crush their business like the hopes of so many would-be McFlurry customers. Now Kytch is instead seeking to serve out cold revenge—nearly a billion dollars worth of it.

Late Tuesday night, Kytch filed a long-expected legal complaint against McDonald’s, accusing the company of false advertising and tortious interference in its contracts with customers. Kytch’s cofounders, Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O’Sullivan, are asking for no less than $900 million in damages.

Since 2019, Kytch has sold a phone-sized gadget designed to be installed inside McDonald’s ice cream machines. Those Kytch devices would intercept the ice cream machines’ internal communications and send them out to a web or smartphone interface to help owners remotely monitor and troubleshoot the machines’ many foibles, which are so widely acknowledged that they’ve become a full-blown meme among McDonald’s customers. The two-person startup’s new claims against McDonald’s focus on emails the fast food giant sent to every franchisee in November 2020, instructing them to pull Kytch devices out of their ice cream machines immediately.

Those emails warned franchisees that the Kytch devices not only violated the ice cream machines’ warranties and intercepted their “confidential information” but also posed a safety threat and could lead to “serious human injury,” a claim that Kytch describes as false and defamatory. Kytch also notes that McDonald’s used those emails to promote a new ice cream machine, built by its longtime appliance manufacturing partner Taylor, that would offer similar features to Kytch. The Taylor devices, meanwhile, have yet to see public adoption beyond a few test installations.

Kytch cofounder Melissa Nelson says the emails didn’t just result in McDonald’s ice cream machines remaining broken around the world. (About one in seven of the machines in the US remained out of commission on Monday according to, which tracks the problem in real time.) They also kneecapped Kytch’s fast-growing sales just as the startup was taking off. “They’ve tarnished our name. They scared off our customers and ruined our business. They were anti-competitive. They lied about a product that they said would be released,” Nelson says. “McDonald’s had every reason to know that Kytch was safe and didn’t have any issues. It was not dangerous, like they claimed. And so we’re suing them.

[From Wired]

Wired interviewed a McDonald’s owner who said that the Kytch insert saved “easily thousands of dollars a month” in downtime and repair costs. The copycat Taylor devices from the ice cream maker were just reverse engineered from Kytch! It sounds like there are sorts of people on the take due to McDonald’s bad ice cream machines. If film crews aren’t following these people around now, some documentarian needs to get on it! This has everything – corporate sabotage, plucky tech entrepreneurs, hard-working fast food employees and customers being denied the best desserts McDonald’s has. (Don’t @me about the pies. They burn your mouth. Caramel sundaes and McFlurries are the best.) Maybe if McDonald’s was forced to display on their doors whether their ice cream machines are functional they would be more proactive about fixing them. In the mean time, if you’d like to watch a documentary about McDonald’s, McMillions, about the McDonald’s Monopoly scandal, is pretty good. It’s long though and I didn’t finish all of it. What should we call this one? McBroken is too obvious. I’m voting for McWrecked.

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20 Responses to “McDonald’s tried to drive company fixing their ice cream machines out of business”

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  1. souperkay says:

    I’ve read about the Kytch saga before. McDonald’s is basically extorting franchisees with the ice cream machine that they require them to purchase and use, both with its seemingly purposeful forced shut downs by the terrible software, and the maintenance contracts to fix these “accidental” bugs. Kytch is a device that stops the bugs, meaning the ice cream machines do not have be shut down and serviced by a McDonald’s tech.

    This is only part of the problem. The bigger issue is why McDonald’s is forcing franchisees to use these crappy machines. It isn’t only the software and forced maintenance contracts, it’s also that they are time consuming to do a basic cleaning on, and performing that basic maintenance for hygiene and safety would trigger one of these “accidental” bugs.

    McDonald’s is deeply entrenched in these particular terrible machines and the maintenance contracts to get them sometimes running. It’s really weird for a company that has all these performance metrics they require franchisees to hit. That’s the bigger story, Kytch is literally a bandaid over a bullet hole.

  2. Cee says:

    I’m sure McDonald’s had a contract with this business so why on earth didn’t they wait for it to expire and move on? Bad mouthing a company and allowing a partner to develop a shitty copy is the worst possible strategy. I hope they are forced to pay up.

    • Norman+Bates'+Mother says:

      As I understood, Kytch didn’t gave contract with McDonald’s as a whole company but with some of the franchisees, which must have been legal until now but McDonald’s wants to illegalize it under false pretenses, copy the machine, force franchisees to pay way more to use it and this way, make even more profit.

      • Cee says:

        Ah, thank you, that makes perfect sense.
        I don’t know how franchises work as McDonald’s in Argentina falls under one company who owns the rights anf they are the ones operating the restaurants.

  3. SarahCS says:

    Corporate monolith acting unethically to small partner organisation? What a surprise. I’m so glad these people are fighting back and I would absolutely watch the documentary about this.

    • Dutch says:

      Kytch was never a partner. They created an unlicensed device that cut into the ice cream machine company’s lucrative service/repair business.

      However, McDonald’s forcing franchisees to purchase and use one only one make and model of ice cream equipment (which is designed to be difficult to maintain properly) is borderline criminal.

  4. Chaine says:

    I’ve worked in fast food. If you’ve been behind the scenes, you won’t ingest anything that comes out of the drink machines, the ice cream/shake machines, or the ice machines.

    • BeanieBean says:

      All I remember from my week at Dairy Queen after high school (I moved onto a better job; i.e., one that paid minimum wage & gave me full time work), is that were not allowed to call the stuff that came out of the machine ‘ice cream’, because it did not fit the USDA’s definition of ‘ice cream’. We had to call it ‘DQ’. I suspect McDonald’s ‘ice cream’ is much the same, not really ice cream.

      • nina says:

        Why McDonald’s is still in business is beyond me. Crappy waste masquerading as food. They should be investigated for the disgusting stuff they serve as food.

  5. Sakura says:

    @Chaine. Yep, those machines have all kinds of nasty little science experiments growing on/in them. When I eat fast food, I say a little prayer and hope for the best.

  6. Colby says:

    I listened to a podcast about this a few years ago..if I recall correctly, franchises have to contract with the manufacturer ONLY for maintenance/repairs of the machines, and they are always on a long wait time

  7. North of Boston says:

    It’s like the “right to repair” issue with cars. Brand name car dealers don’t want independent repair shops to have access to the vehicle service codes, because they want car owners to have no choice but to come back to the mothership for expensive service and repairs.

  8. Ashley L. says:

    If you haven’t watched McMillions I highly recommend. It has everything and who would have thought that a little game of monopoly would spawn so much true crime.

    Also, D I am totally adopting the use of scamdel. Genius.

  9. Lolaispretty says:

    Side issue: when I saw those masks, my first thought was why are they wearing the USSR flag. Not the best look.

    Hope they win. Several years ago Claude Montana sued a small family owned hand-knitted sweater business that lived in Montana for trademark infringement. That’s about as petty and low as you can go.

  10. MangoAngelesque says:

    It’s the craziest thing: I ALWAYS read about McDonalds and their ever-crashed ice cream machines, but I have never encountered one. There are three McDs in my town, and I honestly cannot remember a single time I haven’t been able to order anything ice cream-related.

    • Lucky Charm says:

      You are very lucky! I REALLY REALLY wanted a shamrock shake one year, and I drove to three different McDonald’s to try to get one, but the machines were broken at all three. I almost gave up then went to a fourth, and I ordered two in the largest size they had just to make my search worthwhile lol. Have never, and will never, do that again. But their shamrock shakes were amazing, so that’s how I justified my time and gas. 🙂

  11. MaryAnne Yarnell says:

    Their ice cream is the shittiest on the planet too. Fitting.

  12. JRenee says:

    The last ice cream product I had from Mickey D’s was probably 30years ago. I don’t even know if they make caramel sundaes anymore lol