Light Wave


Are McDonald’s ice cream machines really always broken? The Shamrock Shake saga

By Jake Beardslee · February 9, 2024

In brief…

  • A startup called Kytch developed a device to diagnose issues with Taylor machines but is now suing McDonald's over alleged communication that negatively affected the company.
  • McDonald's says its shake machines are operational 95% of the time but aims to improve reliability through training and maintenance.
  • Taylor machines can only be fixed by Taylor mechanics, sparking complaints.
  • The popular Shamrock Shake returned this week but some customers may find it unavailable due to broken machines.
McDonald's Shamrock Shakes rely on soft serve machines that break down frequently, sparking hacks, lawsuits, and complaints, but the fast food chain aims to improve reliability.  slgckgc/Wikimedia

McDonald’s popular Shamrock Shake is back on menus this week, but some customers may find the iconic minty drink unavailable due to issues with the restaurant’s soft serve machines. According to reporting by Wired, many McDonald’s locations use an ice cream machine model by Taylor Company that is prone to breaking down frequently. The problem has sparked hacks, lawsuits, and even a website to track broken devices across McDonald’s restaurants.

“Our sales data across the past couple years has shown our shake machines are up and running around 95% of the time across the country, depending on the local restaurant,” a McDonald’s spokesperson told Axios. “We’re working to bring that number as close to 100% as possible by providing additional training resources for crew members and regular maintenance ‘check-ups’ to keep our machines running smoothly.”

However, the spokesperson declined to respond to questions about an ongoing lawsuit filed against McDonald’s in 2022 by a small startup called Kytch. According to the lawsuit, Kytch developed a device in 2019 that could hack into Taylor ice cream machines to diagnose issues. But McDonald’s allegedly accused the device of being unsafe in communication to franchisees, negatively affecting the three-person startup.

McDonald’s reliance on Taylor machines that only Taylor mechanics can fix when broken has also drawn complaints nationwide, according to Wired.

The Shamrock Shake, made from vanilla soft serve blended with shamrock shake syrup, has been a popular seasonal treat at McDonald’s since its debut in 1970. The minty green shake is particularly embraced by McDonald’s fans as a harbinger of spring. But defective soft serve machines could leave some shamrock shake lovers shakesless this week.