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Is the McDonald’s Ice Cream Machine Broken?

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2020

Map of McDonald's locations and their ice cream machine status

Software developer Rashiq Zahid figured out McDonald’s ordering API and built a program that attempts to order ice cream from every single McDonald’s in the US to check if their ice cream machine is working. If your McFlurry or McSundae cannot be added to the shopping cart, the program assumes the ice cream machine is broken. The program runs several times a day and the results are displayed on a map. From The Verge:

Initially, he created an API that attempted to add a McSundae from every McDonald’s location to its cart once every minute. The app figured out what he was up to and blocked him — “It was like, you can’t do this, you look like a bot,” he recalled.

After a night of trial and error, Zahid figured out the magic time frame. Now, his bot attempts to add a McSundae every 30 minutes. If the bot successfully adds the item, it lets McBroken know that the location’s machine is working. If it can’t, the location gets a red dot.

From the current map, it looks like almost 10% of McDonald’s ice cream machines in the US are not working. In NYC, nearly a quarter of McDonald’s restaurants don’t have a working ice cream machine. I’m wondering though: is the assumption that the machine is broken a good one? What if ice cream ingredients are out of stock or some franchises don’t offer ice cream products at all hours? When The Verge wrote their story last night, they reported only 7.5% of national machines and 15.2% of NYC machines were broken. Did 10% of McDonald’s ice cream machines in NYC break in the last 12 hours? Or are they just not selling McSundaes at 10am?