McDonald's keeps making customers angry. But will they like this?

Will frustrated McDonald's customers see a brighter day? Will they finally have smiles on their faces?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Let them focus on the burgers.

Screenshot by ZDNet

It's easy to lose hope.

When a brand you like -- love, even -- persists in disappointing you, your head drops in anguish.

And so it's been for some people every time they've contemplated McDonald's.

The longest-running -- and saddest -- joke about the company has revolved around how its ice-cream machines work.

Or don't.

A site called McBroken regularly mocks them. It shows that up to 20% of these machines are non-functional at any given time.

A startup called Kytch insists it has a solution. Yet Kytch has now sued McDonald's, insisting the company has done everything to ruin its business.

In essence, then, McDonald's soft-serve McFlurry has become more of a wishful idea than a reliable product.

Yet this is something that seems still not to matter enough to McDonald's.

Why, only last week, Morgan Flatley, the company's global chief marketing officer, offered this wistful flurry of words: "McDonald's plays a privileged role in so many people's lives. I think about my own kids and how a McFlurry at the end of a long day at school can be the perfect afternoon treat to put smiles on their faces!"

Well, yes. If the McFlurry machine works.

I contemplated this and suddenly felt a freezing feeling.

I learned that more entrepreneurial types have been looking at solving the soft serve conundrum.

The latest one that struck me is called iCream. The idea is blessedly simple: a freestanding soft-serve vending machine.

Naturally, I was still skeptical.

After all, the brand's website is somewhat under construction. Though I couldn't help warming to its tagline: Do Yourself A Flavor.

Moreover, my painfully irregular reading of the Vending Times told me that iCream has already got together with Pinkberry. Yes, these machines make frozen yoghurt too.

I had to research further. Insider reported that there will be 10,000 iCream machines in the US within three years.

That's when I began to dream. Couldn't McDonald's have these machines inside its restaurants?

We're all venturing into restaurants these days, aren't we? Imagine the sheer delight for McDonald's customers as they push a few buttons and get their soft serve. Imagine the sheer delight of McDonald's employees as they watch customers serve their own soft serve and never complain.

Imagine if McDonald's put a few of these things in their parking lots. Wouldn't that be a treat to put smiles on people's faces?

Of course, I was dreaming a little too much, but I needed to know more about the technology.

It seems these things are like jukeboxes -- you just plug them in, and there's your ice cream. You can plug them into your normal outlet.

Whereas McDonald's ice cream machines take up to an hour to clean -- one of the alleged reasons they're so often out of order -- these iCream things apparently take less than 20 minutes.

And, well, isn't everything supposed to be bought via a touchscreen these days? Even your McDonald's.

I exercised my public-spirited core by asking McDonald's whether it felt the merest tinge of excitement about these iCream vending machines. I'll update should I ever hear word flurries coming my way.

Ultimately, though, there has to be an answer.

As long, that is, as there's a willingness on the part of McDonald's.

After all, customers don't have smiles on their faces when they're frozen out.

Editorial standards