There's New Legal Drama Around McDonald’s Soft Serve Machines

Thank you for explaining that in words, rather than creating a video.

To be fair, Taylor is a pretty major food service manufacturer. Most of the restaurants I’ve been in have had had plenty of Taylor products.

The problem is with this one machine and its software. I don’t know what Sonic or whatever uses, but the Frosty machines at Wendy’s don’t have a complicated interface, or really any interface. They just have a handle that dispenses product. They are cleaned manually.

It sounds like the cleaning cycle is pretty finicky, and if anything goes wrong, then it locks up, and doesn’t give any feedback as to what went wrong. According to the video, if they put less product in the hopper, or let it draw down towards the end of the night, that would solve a large number of the errors. But the machine doesn’t tell you this, it just tells you to call for service.

When I was at Wendy’s, they decided to upgrade their coffee system. So, instead of a pretty basic system that anyone would understand and recognize, they replaced it with a big box with a bunch of buttons. This was in theory better, as it would allow for more flavored coffees, and also keep the coffee fresher.

What actually happened was we didn’t have coffee fairly often, as something would go wrong with its cleaning cycle at night, and I’d come in to a machine that wouldn’t dispense coffee for my breakfast customers. That was actually probably a factor in why I left, but there were certainly some other ones as well.

Last time I was at a Wendy’s, I didn’t see the big coffee machine, but instead, just the basic coffee brewing system again.

And the only service company they are allowed to call is run by the same company that makes the machines. According to the video, 25% of Taylor’s profits come from the repair division of the company, so there is absolutely no incentive to fix the problem.

Right, which is a bit odd in and of itself.

As I said, most of the kitchens that I’ve worked in had Taylor products, and if for some reason they needed repair, we didn’t have to call a Taylor repair tech specifically. We generally had one service provider who would work on all of our kitchen equipment.

Which explains why it is the McDonalds machines that keep breaking down-it is in the contract that they can only buy a specific modal of a Taylor machine, and can only use a Taylor repair person.

Yeah, someone got a kickback on that deal.

Someone pretty damn high up, since this is happening company-wide.

Ah man I was hoping there’s be a 30 minute youtube video explaining why youtube videos are so long. Which I wouldn’t have watched.

That’s weird. I find it surprising that either Coca-Cola (for which McDonald’s is their biggest, most prominent fountain customers) or McDonald’s corporate (which seems to pride itself on the quality of the fountain soda) would stand for such shenanigans. A Google search for “Why does fountain Coke taste better at McDonald’s” finds multiple articles (such as this paywalled New York Times one) that say that McDonald’s restaurants gets the syrup in stainless steel tanks rather than the plastic bags many other restaurants use and McDonald’s also chills the syrup and the water before mixing them, as some of the ways McDonald’s tries to ensure the quality of the fountain Coke.

And the implication is that this interface obscuring is done intentionally for revenue generating reasons. That a third part device clears up a lot of the issues is pretty good evidence for shenanigans.

There are little dials in the back of you standard fountain dispensers that you can stick a screwdriver into, and change how much is in the mix. This is necessary, as some drinks require higher mixes than others. You can also adjust carbonation this way.

I’ve never seen a McD’s dispenser up close, but those seem to be rather tightly closed machines. I would be surprised if a manager or owner could adjust the mix with a screwdriver anymore. They’d probably damage it if they tried.

Yeah, and further evidence is McD’s forbidding their franchise owners from using them.

Well, people disagree:

McDonald’s actually puts less syrup in their drinks than some other chains. A small Coke from McDonald’s contains 40 grams of sugar, but go to a Panera Bread and you’ll get a Coke with as much as 67 grams of sugar inside. McDonald’s has managed to determine the exact ratio of syrup to put into their Cokes in order to capture that unique taste that so many people love.

Now we’re in a world where a machine is sold, but complex software is necessary to operate the machine. The manufacturers can use many means related to the software to limit customers’ repair options. They can be legal, such as using a software license to limit who is allowed to repair it. Others are information based, such as not releasing documentation or training material. Sometimes they are technical limitations, such as requiring a code or special computer to conduct repairs. Often it will be a combination of these things.

This is famously on display in things like iPhones, John Deere tractors, and ventilator machines. If it bothers you, look into right to repair legislation at the state and national level.

If I’m remembering the article I read about the ice cream machines, they have a secret diagnostic menu which can be accessed to figure out the problem, and reset the machine. One of the main advantages of the third party device was it could send an alert when there was a problem, which would allow for immediate correction and resetting of the hours long cleaning cycle, instead of just discovering the machine was down when the opening crew arrived in the morning.

Apparently you didn’t read your second cite and you selectively pulled a paragraph out of context. The article explains how McDonald’s tightly regulates the amount of syrup. The restaurants don’t mess with the formula.

The fact that a random guy in 2013 thinks his tastes watered-down is irrelevant.

That’s not to say that there are not some owners or managers who get inventive with a screwdriver in an attempt to lower their food cost.

(Probably actually costing them a repair bill.)

And if they try it with the Taylor ice cream machine it will cost them the franchise.

It seems hard to believe that mucking with the ice cream machine could result in losing the franchise but they can muck with the fountain soda mix without consequences.

Not that hard to believe. The franchisee has a bit of leeway when it comes to soda machines and the people that service them…but, company wide, they are only allowed to buy a certain model of a Taylor-made machine and that specific model can only be serviced by Taylor service personnel.

Perhaps so, but the article also sez they use less syrup. And note they say McDs regulated it, not Coke.

Believe it or not. If you do not believe it, fine.

Yes, it states that they consistently use the same amount of syrup, and are very strict about this consistency.