Here's How Often The Ice Cream Machines At McDonald's Really Break - Exclusive

Ordering ice cream from McDonald's can feel like a losing battle. Ice cream cones, sundaes, and McFlurries can seem like rare commodities due to common reports of the ice cream machines being down. Mashed spoke with Daniel Estrada, CEO and co-founder of 86 Repairs — a tech platform that manages and streamlines equipment maintenance and repairs for the restaurant industry — about the "McBroken" controversy surrounding the franchise's ice cream machines. We had to ask, how often do these machines really break and is McDonald's really worse than other purveyors of soft-serve treats?

Social media users have been complaining about broken ice cream machines for some time (via WSJ). An online tracker called McBroken aggregates all the machines that aren't working in North America at one time, and the results are significant. Estrada explained that McDonald's used two brands of ice cream machines, Taylor equipment, which is the source of a lot of the legal actions and right-to-repair issues, and a company called Carpigiani. The Wall Street Journal reports that even the Federal Trade Commission reached out to McDonald's owners who complained the machines are "overly complicated" and involve a four-hour nightly cleaning cycle.

It's complicated, Estrada said, because there isn't one "smoking gun," but rather, the burden of regular maintenance and repair for one of the many pieces of equipment found in the McDonald's kitchen. 

McDonald's ice cream machines need about 2 repairs a year

Estrada's tech company, 86 Repairs, works with around 1,000 locations, but he said there are around 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. alone. "Repairs in general are a huge cost to restaurant operators," Estrada explained, which some restaurants "aren't able to manage proactively, which is one of the reasons we exist." In addition to labor and supply shortages as a result of the pandemic, Estrada said repairs have been "a really painful subject ... especially over the last 18 months." Looking at the number of repairs this year, he said: "It's safe to say across the U.S. there probably have been over 10,000 repairs on ice cream machines." The numbers break down to be around two repairs per year on each ice cream machine.

The number might sound high, but he implores customers to consider the numbers overall. "It's become a meme, a sensation online that these machines are constantly broken," said Estrada, "but when you look at the full set of repairs ... it's only the 11th most common issue." Estrada said, "McDonald's restaurant has 80 [to] 90 pieces of equipment just in the kitchen — and all of those are critical to serving guests." 

Estrada said the reason talk surrounding the ice cream machines seems so secretive is "because repairs have always been a black box for restaurant operators, and it's not their fault." As of now, there is no easy solution for McDonald's owners. "It's just like if you take your car to the mechanic and they tell you that you need to have your brakes replaced," Estrada explained, "You have to trust that mechanic that they're giving you the right information because I don't know about you, but I'm not an expert in repairing cars."

Daniel Estrada is the CEO and founder of 86 Repairs, a company on a mission to improve repairs for restaurant owners. To find out more and keep up with 86 Repairs, follow them on Twitter and Instagram.