Even the FTC wants to know why you can never get ice cream at McDonald’s

The machines have become the butt of jokes for constantly breaking.

A Child eating ice cream at a McDonalds outlet, India. (Photo by: Salman Quraishi/IndiaPictures/Univ...
IndiaPictures/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Even federal regulators want to know why McDonald’s can’t seem to stop its ice cream machines from constantly breaking and denying guests the satisfaction of their favorite frozen treat. The Wall Street Journal reports specifically that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has contacted franchise owners, seeking information about how McDonald’s reviews the suppliers of its ice cream machines, and whether franchise owners are allowed to repair their own hardware.

Butt of jokes — McDonald’s has struggled for years to keep its ice cream machines working, to the point that it’s become the butt of jokes that nobody can ever seem to get a McFlurry when they want one. Someone even made an online tracking website where visitors can try and find a location that has a working machine to get their fix.

Franchise owners are not pleased about the situation, with the National Owners Association writing in a message to owners, “We are tired of being the butt of late night jokes. So are our customers and crews.”

Opening a McDonald’s franchise can cost more than a million dollars, and once a new store is opened, the restaurant giant requires owners to adhere to strict guidelines about how to operate them, including the equipment they can use. If McDonald’s is making franchise owners buy equipment it knows is faulty, and therefore could impact sales, that could be reasonable cause for concern. About 60 percent of McDonald’s dessert sales in the U.S. come from ice cream.

According to the Journal, McDonald’s has a team working on redesigning the ice cream machines, which require a nightly automatic heat-cleaning cycle that can last up to four hours. It’s this cleaning cycle that frequently fails, making the machines unusable until serviced by a technician. Owners have long complained the machines are overly complicated.

Right to repair — It may seem like a minor issue, but the Journal reports that the supplier of McDonald’s ice cream machines, Taylor Commercial Foodservice, does not allow owners to repair their own machines without voiding their warranties. The Biden administration has been evaluating a range of products on whether manufacturers impede owners from fixing the products themselves, forcing them to pay a racket to an authorized technician when things go awry.