The Federal Trade Commission is planning to investigate why McDonald’s ice cream machines are always out of service, reaching out to franchisees for information regarding their machines.
FTC officials began to contact McDonald’s franchisees over the summer to collect information regarding the machines, and how, specifically, the devices are non-operational for long periods of time, The Wall Street Journal reported.
McDonald’s recently announced, as the investigation is ongoing, that its locations are seeking 14 and 15-year-olds to apply for positions due to the ongoing labor shortage across the country.
The Federal Trade Commission sent letters to McDonald’s franchise owners that asked pointed questions about their frozen ice cream machines. https://t.co/baqCgZhKYm
— VICE (@VICE) September 3, 2021
Letters from the FTC reportedly went out earlier in the summer as part of the Biden administration’s plan to closely monitor whether manufacturers purposefully prevent owners from fixing their products themselves, the WSJ reported.
The investigation, which is reportedly in its early stages, seeks information on how the company reviews suppliers and equipment, and how often owners can work on the machines.
Owners of franchisees told the outlet that the failures typically stem from a nightly, four-hour automated heat-cleaning cycle that can malfunction, rendering the machine unusable until a technician can repair it.
The breakdowns are very costly as the treats crafted with the machines account for 60 percent of the chain’s dessert sales in the U.S., the WSJ reported.
“A lot of what’s been broadcasted can be attributed to the lack of knowledge about the equipment and how they operate in the restaurants,” a representative from Taylor Commercial Foodservice LLC told the outlet.
The spokesperson said the machines were built with “a lot of interconnecting parts that have to operate in a complex environment and manner,” and that owners need to make sure these parts are cleaned properly.
In some cases, franchise owners have spent large amounts of money to train their staff on how to fix their machines in case of a malfunction, while others have contacted the primary manufacturer of the machines for help.
“We are tired of being the butt of late night jokes. So are our customers and crews,” a message sent to franchisees from the National Owners Association in May read.
Online memes and jokes about the broken-down machines have appeared in recent years, with competing rivals taking hits at the fast-food giant.
“I’m beginning to wonder if this McDonald’s even has an ice cream machine,” one Atlanta customer said, according to the WSJ, stating that she was beginning to come up with “conspiracy theories” that would explain why the machines seem to always be broken.
McDonald’s posted a tweet last year making light of the situation, in which the company said, “We have a joke about our soft serve machine but are worried it won’t work.”
In February, McDonald’s executives were worried they would have their bonuses cut significantly if they didn’t hire “historically underrepresented groups” for top positions.
Last month, the fast-food chain announced that masks would again be made mandatory for all customers and staff, regardless of vaccine status, in “high transmission” areas.
Last November, the company began cracking down on locations to ensure “COVID fatigue” was not setting into its stores, and encouraged locations to continue enforcing rules and mandates.
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