Soft Serve Cone - © 2023 - Eat This Much Inc

Why McD’s Soft Serve Machines Are ‘Always’ Broken

McD’s ice cream is a fan favourite – when you can get it. And fans know that’s a toss of the dice. Now, an insider explains why the soft serve machines are frequently ‘out of order’. And it’s not for the reason you’re probably thinking…

Taylor Soft Serve Machine - © 2021 - sporkful.comA standard McDonald’s Taylor Soft Serve machine: On a good day – no ‘out of order’ sign!

The fact that McDonald’s soft serve machines are often ‘out of order’ is almost a ‘given’ these days.

A friend who – for some reason – loves soft ice cream just laughs when the chain advertises a special on menu items that incorporate the stuff: “More likely than not, the machine will be down. Again.”

The situation has, in fact, become legendary. And most folks just live with it these days – as an unavoidable McReality.

What you thought

I’ll bet you thought the soft serve machines at McD’s are ‘always down’ because the employees avoided dealing with them. I previously posted this angle (years ago) on the issue, after reading a tell-all by a former McEmployee. She disclosed that cleaning the filling the machines was one of the most-detested chores in the restaurant. Second only to cleaning the washrooms.

As a result, routine maintenance is often neglected until the machines clog up and jam.

But it turns out there’s a whole other, higher dimension to the situation.

Legal ramifications…

It turns out that McDonald’s is contractually and legally prohibited from repairing its own soft serve machines. No McD’s employee or third-party technician is allowed to tinker with the machines’ innards.

First, there’s the ‘standard’ contract that McD’s operators must sign. It prohibits anyone but factory techs from repairing the machines. They’re made by Taylor, a mega-manufacturer of restaurant equipment that’s been sold all over North America since 1926. And they’re famous their soft serve machines.

But then, there’s the more-forbidding spectre of the the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It states that repairing any commercial or industrial device on your own can sometimes be ruled a copyright violation. You might get a peek at al the proprietary technol0ogy.

Unfortunately… Taylor-authorised service techs have a reputation for taking their own sweet time to respond to repair calls.

But there’s more…

When the Taylor tech does show up, they charge $300 for every 15-minute hour part it takes to fix the problem. And that’s a prohibitive cost to many resto operators. They’re on very slim profit margins, as it is. It’s simply cheaper and easier to leave the ‘out of order’ sign taped to the front of the machine.

Hope on the horizon…

All is not lost. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) have filed a joint comment to the U.S. Copyright Office asking for an amendment to Section 1202 of the DMCA, allowing the repair of industrial and commercial equipment by other than factory techs. That would mean that McDonald’s soft-serve machines could be repaired by their own people or third-party techs.

My take

This might just be the dynamite charge needed to clear the service logjam affecting Taylor soft serve machines across the Fast Food galaxy.

But there’s still the matter of getting staff to maintain the machines properly. And that could be a lot harder to resolve than the copyright issue. Human nature is a formidable opponent for any manager.

Meanwhile – to the legions of McSoft Serve fans, I can only offer Edmond Dantes’ advice at the conclusion of The Count of Monte Cristo: “Beloved children of my heart, […] never forget that, until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope’.”

~ Maggie J.