The info has been quietly lurking in the McDonald’s app all along.

By Mike Pomranz
October 23, 2020
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McDonald’s will tell you that online ordering makes purchasing your favorite menu items easier than ever before. And sure, that’s true enough. But a 24-year-old software engineer may have just unlocked the most useful tool in McDonald’s digital ordering platform by harnessing its info to figure out the status of every location’s soft serve ice cream machine.

Rashiq Zahid had a game-changing epiphany over the summer when he tried to order a McSundae through McDonald’s mobile app: He couldn’t add the item to his digital cart because it was unavailable. From there, the next step was inevitable. “I reverse engineered McDonald's internal API 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,” he tweeted yesterday.

Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The resulting site—McBroken.com—displays every McDonald’s in the U.S. as either a green or red dot depending on whether the ice cream machine is working. Admittedly, people have tried to deal with this issue before, but McBroken appears to be the first site to publically offer up the data in essentially real time at every McDonald’s.

“I love poking around in different apps and just looking at the security features and the internal APIs,” Zahid explained to The Verge. “I am pretty familiar with how to reverse-engineer apps. I was like ‘Okay, this should be pretty easy.’”

Indeed, he said the toughest part was determining how often he could add a McSundae to his carts before he was flagged as a bot. Turns out 30 minutes was the right timing—which is how often each location updates depending on whether ice cream items show up as available or not. “I just made it for fun,” Zahid continued. “But people were like ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve seen this entire week.’”

And beyond its practical uses, the site does have fun features. On the right hand side, a column updates with the overall percentage of broken machines. It’s at 9.62 percent broken as I write this. And McBroken also ranks major cities by the percentage of machines not working. Sorry, New York, you’re currently leading the pack at 21.74 percent. One Twitter user even purported to take the statistics a step further and determine how the breakdowns affect different demographics.

Meanwhile, speaking of Twitter, David Tovar —McDonald’s VP of U.S. communications and government relations—went so far as to tweet his support of the site. “Only a true @McDonalds fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream!” he wrote. “So, thanks!”

Coincidentally enough (and it does appear to strictly be a coincidence), just two days ago we wrote about how Tyler Gamble, a McDonald’s franchisee and leader of the chain's National Supply Leadership Council (NSLC) equipment team, had announced the creation of a new McFlurry-focused task force. “I will not feel that my tenure as your equipment lead has been a success unless we find a way to ensure that McDonald's is no longer the butt of the joke, even with their own social media team,” Gamble stated.

Maybe Gamble should consider hiring Zahid? If he can create this website for fun, just imagine the solutions he could come up with for a paycheck!