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It may be just me, but something seems to be amiss with McDonald’s shake and ice cream machines. My experience tells me it’s a 50-50 chance the machine will not be working when I order a shake. Guess what? It’s not just me.

The six McDonald’s I visited in Reno, NV, USA

Apparently, the reliability, or lack thereof, of McDonald’s shake machines and ice cream machines are legendary in the fast food world. It’s so bad that last year McDonald’s corporate folks announced they were replacing the ice cream machine in every store.

Shaky Reputation For McD’s Milkshakes

An online search found multiple responses to questions about McDonald’s shake machines. On Reddit, one person asked:

McDonald’s employees: why is the milkshake machine always out of order?

Response from an alleged McDonald’s employee was:

This machine is incredibly hard to keep up and running if you have no idea what you are doing. It turns off automatically around 11 pm. It turns back on in the morning about 4 am. …Once a month it will turn off for it to be cleaned… someone must completely take it apart to clean it. If it is put back together improperly or not clean enough it will shut off after about an hour and you must clean it again. 

Former McDonalds Shift Manager

On Quora the responses to a similar question were:

Even for machines that produce products like the McFlurry, the cleaning and maintenance required is such that it is easily among the most hated tasks to be performed… a milkshake or McFlurry is a product that is usually made by the cashier. … Each McFlurry represents an added task… any request for that item represents added work for the employee with no benefit to accomplishing any of their main tasks faster… there is little downside to simply not providing this service when at all possible. 

Former McDonald’s Employee

1. Laziness…
2. The cleaning process…
3. …complicated piece of machinery…

Current McDonald’s Employee

McDonald's Shaking Up It's Shake Machine?

The New Shake Machine? At least this one was working.

McD’s in Reno, Nevada

I made nine visits to six McDonald’s restaurants in the Reno, Nevada area this week. All occurred in the afternoon to early evening. I had four instances where the shake machine was out of order; however, in one instance they said it would be ready in a few minutes, and we (my son was with me) scored our first Shamrock Shake of the season at that location.

The three other times that the shake machine was out of order all occurred at one restaurant on three consecutive days. Five other McDonald’s had working shake machines. 

Will It Be Hunting Season For the Shamrock Shake?

With the famous Shamrock Shake season coming up, will it be hunting season for those who are seeking the elusive green treat? Probably not. If the one problem location is removed from my unscientific survey, the shake machines at most of the McDonald’s restaurants could be considered reliable during peak hours.

It also seems that based on the comments of past employees, the reliability of the shake machine might be more a question of the quality of the employees and their management. I will certainly be cautious of McDonald’s locations that seem to have shake machine issues because it is likely that their problems are not isolated bad machine maintenance.