If you’ve ever tried to order a McFlurry from your local McDonald’s only to that the fast food outlet’s soft-serve machine is conveniently broken, well, you’re not alone. Right now, close to 10% of all McDonald’s soft-serve makers are globally out of service, according to the “McBroken” real-time machine tracker. An Alameda, Calif.-based startup named Kytch created a device aiming to get that percentage to zero — an ambition which McDonald’s crushed.
Now Kytch is filing suit against the fast food giant.
The startup filed a legal complaint on Tuesday with the US District Court of the District of Delaware seeking $900 million in damages alleging that McDonald’s interfered with contracts with Kytch’s customers and accusing it of false advertising.
Founded in 2019 by Melissa Nelson and Jeremy O’Sullivan, Kytch made small devices to go inside the chronically broken soft-serve machines, made by McDonald’s partner The devices gave users the ability to troubleshoot the machines’ well-documented issues using a smartphone. Kytch’s customers were McDonald’s franchisees, which operate tens of thousands of McDonald’s globally located.
McDonald’s, however, didn’t like this. In its complaint, Kytch alleged that the company sent emails to every franchisee in November 2020 in which McDonald’s advised that they stop using Kytch’s devices immediately. The emails, which Kytch claime, were detrimental to the startup’s sales, allegedly caused the devices violated the machine’s warranties, could “serious human injury” and give Kytch access to “confidential information.” Kytch argues in the complaint that these safety warnings were inaccurate, aiming to discredit the startup and give more business to Taylor.
“Taylor has intentionally created ‘equipment reliability issues’ for years, and its repair and maintenance business has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in fees for repairs that Taylor itself caused,” the complaint reads.
In its first complaint filed May 2021, Kytch claimed that Taylor used to make a similar device to theirs, which got the manufacturer a restraining order. Now, Kytch is going after McDonald’s for cutting off its customer base.
“Kytch was the only product on the market that was positioned to fix the soft-serve machines at McDonald’s,” read the complaint.
Protocol reached out to McDonald’s for comment on the lawsuit and will update if or when the company responds.
Amidst Kytch’s legal battle with Taylor last year, a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a statement to Wired:
“Nothing is more important to us than food quality and safety, which is why all equipment in McDonald’s restaurants is thoroughly vetted before it’s approved for use. After we learned that Kytch’s unapproved device was being tested by some of our franchisees, we held a call to better understand what it was and communicated a potential safety concern to franchises.
Though the lawsuit doesn’t directly address the right to repair, Kytch’s fight against McDonald’s raises the question of whether or not product owners should be given the means and equipment to repair their own devices, or if those fixes should be in the hands of the companies themselves.