from the everyone-loves-ice-cream! dept.
Burgers, fries, and McNuggets are the staples of McDonald's fare. But the chain also offers soft-serve ice cream in most of its 38,000+ locations. Or at least, theoretically it does. In reality, the ice cream machines are infamously prone to breaking down, routinely disappointing anyone trying to satisfy their midnight McFlurry craving.
One enterprising software engineer, Rashiq Zahid, decided it's better to know if the ice cream machine is broken before you go. The solution? A bot to check ahead. Thus was born McBroken, which maps out all the McDonald's near you with a simple color-coded dot system: green if the ice cream machine is working and red if it's broken.
The bot basically works through McDonald's mobile app, which you can use to place an order at any McDonald's location. If you can add an ice cream order to your cart, the theory goes, the machine at that location is working. If you can't, it's not. So Zahid took that idea and scaled up.
[...] "I reverse-engineered McDonald's internal ordering API," he explained when he launched the tool, "and I'm currently placing an order worth $18,752 every minute at every McDonald's in the US to figure out which locations have a broken ice cream machine."
[...] The Verge interviewed Zahid about his project once his tweet announcing it took off.
NB: The bot does not actually place the order. It attempts to set up an order, and if it is allowed to add the item, it is assumed to be available. Taking note of that, it then exits out of the attempt. At no time is money exchanged. Also, he discovered that he had to back off to once every 30 minutes or it got blocked.
McDonald's will test a meat-free burger in several markets next year as it adds plant-based menu offerings, which it has coined "McPlant."
International President Ian Borden said that McPlant was created "by McDonald's and for McDonald's." Borden said that the McPlant line could also include chicken substitutes.
McDonald's has not yet disclosed the supplier for the line. A company spokesperson declined to identify their supplier but said that McDonald's will not be manufacturing the products.
But a spokesperson for Beyond Meat said in a statement to CNBC that the company co-created the plant-based patty that will be available as part of the McPlant line. Shares of Beyond rose as much as 4% in afternoon trading after falling as much as 6% earlier on Monday. The stock, which was briefly halted for volatility in both morning and afternoon trading, is currently down less than 1%.
Beyond Meat's partnership with McDonald's to develop the McPlant burger wasn't enough to keep shares from collapsing after the company posted third-quarter earnings that fell far below analysts' expectations.
The big miss sent shares tumbling nearly 29% in after markets closed Monday after reporting it generated $94.4 million in revenues and a loss of 28 cents per share versus the $132.8 million in revenue and 5 cents per share loss that analysts had expected.
Previously: Meatless "Beyond Burgers" Come to Fast Food Restaurants
Following IPO of Beyond Meat, Tyson Foods Plans Launch of its Own Meatless Products
Plant-Based "Impossible Burger" Coming to Every Burger King Location
Meat Industry PR Campaign Bashes Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Bot Orders $18,752 of McSundaes Every 30 Minutes to Find If Machines are Working
McFlurry machines are complicated pieces of equipment designed so that only certified technicians employed by the Taylor, the manufacturer, can service them. When one breaks, even if it's a simple fix, the McDonald's franchise has to call in a special repair person to fix it. A company called Kytch invented a device that lets franchise owners do basic repairs and diagnostics without calling in the expensive repair person. According to Motherboard's reporting, some techs and McDonald's franchises know how to bypass safety features to get the machine operational.
Kytch busted Taylor's monopoly on repairing the ice cream machines and, according to Kytch, Taylor retaliated by stealing its devices and reverse engineering them. Kytch won a legal victory in early August when a judge awarded it a temporary restraining order against Taylor and ordered the ice cream machine manufacturer to return ill-gotten Kytch devices.
The McDonald's ice cream machine problem is a right to repair issue. Franchises pay for a McFlurry machine and then have to keep paying Taylor to keep it running. It's an issue that mirrors Apple charging exorbitant amounts [for] basic iPhone repairs or John Deere forcing farmers to use their authorized dealers to get a repair.
In July, Joe Biden signed an executive order that detailed his administration's plans to make it easier for everyone to repair their own stuff. Later that month, the FTC formally adopted a right-to-repair platform and promised to investigate companies for possible violations of antitrust and anti-competition laws. According to the FTC letter viewed by The Wall Street [Journal], it appears that looking into what's going on with the ice cream machines is part of that push.