The ice cream machines at McDonald’s – as milkshake and McFlurry fans are all too aware – are more likely to be broken than working. There’s even a website called McBroken that tracks the fault in real-time.
McDonald’s has had problems with the temperamental machinery for decades, seemingly unable to find a fix.
But a team of hackers launched a startup to do just that. In 2019 they created a small device – around the size of a mobile phone – that could fit inside the standard McD’s ice cream machine and send real-time feedback to a manager’s mobile phone showing what the exact problem was and how to fix it.
But now, the hackers are suing McDonald’s for $900m (around £673 million).
Many relieved Maccy-D’s franchise owners bought the gadget, called Kytch, and restored one of the chain’s most popular items to the menu.
One franchise owner said he had saved “easily thousands of dollars a month” after installing Kytch because it meant they sold a lot more milkshakes and spent far less on repairs.
But in November 2020, the fast-food giant sent an email to every franchisee demanding that they remove Kytch from the McDonald’s-supplied machines immediately.
The email claimed that Kytch invalidated the machines’ warranties and could be used to obtain “confidential information” about McDonald’s’ business. It also alleged that the use of a Kytch could lead to “serious human injury”.
The email ended with an offer to buy a new model of ice cream machine that incorporated very similar technology to Kytch.
McDonald’s wrote: “Kytch’s software includes a remote operation function, and with this feature, we believe anyone cleaning, operating or repairing our shake machines (like restaurant crew members or maintenance technicians) could potentially be injured if the equipment is turned on remotely.”
Now Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O’Sullivan, the hackers that developed Kytch are planning to take McDonald’s to court and demanding no less than $900 million in damages.
Kytch co-founder Melissa Nelson alleged to Wired that McDonald’s was ruining her business: “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.
“McDonald’s had every reason to know that Kytch was safe and didn’t have any issues,” she added. “It was not dangerous, like they claimed. And so we’re suing them.”
The Daily Star has reached out to McDonald’s for a comment.
For the latest breaking news stories and incredible tales from the Daily Star, sign up for our newsletter by clicking here.