Kytch, a tech startup, had been providing McDonald’s franchisees with an innovative device aimed at fixing the common issues plaguing the chain’s soft-serve machines, manufactured by Taylor, McDonald’s equipment partner. The device allowed real-time monitoring and diagnostics of the machines, aiding in maintenance and reducing downtime. However, in November 2020, McDonald’s issued an email to its franchisees warning against the use of Kytch’s device, citing safety concerns. This move led to an immediate and drastic decline in Kytch’s sales.

Years into a legal battle, Kytch has now brought forward what it claims to be crucial evidence: an email implicating Taylor in the effort to thwart their business. The email in question, penned by Timothy FitzGerald, CEO of Taylor’s parent company Middleby, hinted at a potential strategy to discourage franchisees from using Kytch’s product. This revelation is part of Kytch’s lawsuit against Taylor, accusing them of trade libel and other offenses.

The internal email by FitzGerald, dated October 17, 2020, suggests a communication from either McDonald’s or Middleby to deter franchisees from adopting Kytch’s solution. This email followed a discussion where acquiring Kytch was considered. A subsequent email confirmed a meeting between Taylor and McDonald’s to strategize the communication against Kytch.

Kytch’s cofounders, Jeremy O’Sullivan and Melissa Nelson, argue that this email is a definitive proof of Taylor’s intent to sabotage a potential competitor, likening it to covert directives. The McDonald’s email that followed two weeks later, cautioning against Kytch’s product, is said to be a direct result of this alleged collusion.

Kytch refutes the safety concerns raised by McDonald’s, noting their product’s certification by Underwriters Laboratory. They assert that the real motive was to protect Taylor from competition. Kytch’s legal stance is that the CEO’s email set in motion a plan to discredit their product.

Middleby, in response to inquiries, denied influencing McDonald’s decision to issue the warning and maintained the accuracy of the safety concerns expressed in the 2020 communication. The company also referenced a preliminary legal victory over Kytch in the ongoing lawsuit.

As of now, Taylor’s promised internet-connected ice cream machine, which McDonald’s had endorsed, has yet to be deployed in restaurants. Meanwhile, Kytch continues its legal battles against both Taylor and McDonald’s, seeking significant damages for what they claim to be a concerted effort to eliminate their product from the market. The case against Taylor is scheduled for trial in May in Alameda County Superior Court, California, where Kytch aims to prove high-level conspiracy involving Taylor, Middleby, and McDonald’s.