Franchised fast food restaurants, like McDonald’s, depend on a steady supply of ice.  You can’t serve sodas, tea or blended drinks without plenty of fresh, clean ice on hand.

The Iceologist sat down with Marty Washington, McDonald’s franchisee and self-confessed ice skeptic, about what it takes to run a successful franchise business and what ice machines mean to his operations.

The Iceologist:  How many franchises do you own?

Marty:  More than I want but less than my wife wants (laughing).  Currently I have 4 stand-alone locations plus one in a Walmart.

The Iceologist:  When did you get into the franchise business?

Marty:  October 1, 2000.  It’s all worked out very well and has been a good experience.

The Iceologist:  What was it about McDonald’s that attracted you when there are so many franchise opportunities?

Marty:  My wife was working for McDonald’s as regional manager.  I did some investigating and found McDonald’s to be a lower risk option than other franchisees like KFC and Burger King.

The Iceologist:  So your wife comes out of a foodservice background.  Do you?

Marty:  No.  I came out of  high tech.  I was engineer at IBM for years.

The Iceologist:  What are the challenges and the upsides of owning McDonald’s franchises?

Marty:  The foodservice business is very competitive and the margins are tight.  If you’re not careful, you could be upside down in any given month.  What I love about it is I have the opportunity to help other people grow and reach their targets in life.

The Iceologist:  What were the deciding factors behind choosing Easy Ice for your ice machines?

Marty:  The fixed costs of subscriptions was the biggest thing.  When you own a commercial ice machine (which I did previously), it’s ok until the machine goes down.  Some months I was spending $600 just for replacement ice.  Plus all the repairs and maintenance were coming out of my pocket.  Now, I have no surprises.  You guys do a great job with maintenance, cleanings and repairs — better than we could ever do.

Now that we’ve added more blended drinks to the McDonald’s menu, ice is even more important and we need more of it.  I have your ice machines in all of my locations.

Your service is good and the predictability of your fixed costs is even better! I know what my ice is going to cost my every month.  No surprises!

Easy Ice is in my delight column!

The Iceologist:  How have ice machine subscriptions changed the way you run your franchises?

Marty:  It’s really all about the cost.  The ice machine makes ice and I always have ice.  If it breaks down, I don’t have any worries.  You guys have brought hundreds of pounds of Breakdown Ice at no extra charge.  Subscriptions have given me one less area to worry about.

The Iceologist:  Do you have any advice for folks thinking about getting into the franchise game?

Marty:  It really depends on which franchise you choose.  Franchising is a lower risk option in the restaurant business, but also a lower return and you  need to consider that.  You need to be realistic about what your return will really be and have realistic expectations.  It’s an investment.

Getting into franchising has worked well for me — it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love!  There are a lot of good options in franchising right now.  Foodservice is trickier than some franchise opportunities because of all the employees you need.  7-11 is a good option because you have less personnel.

Another piece of advice that I have is make sure your partner (for me, that’s my wife) is in sync with you.  Franchises take a lot of your time.  All that glitters in not gold (Marty says with a smile).

No matter what you do in your life, you need to find meaning.  And you need balance.  I try to take off 1 or 2 days a week to get in some golf.  And everyday I make time to get to the gym — without my phone!  I played football for Michigan when I was in college.  I’ve been blessed with 5 kids and 4 grandchildren and I always tell them to keep moving.  You gotta keep walking to stay alive!

The Iceologist:  Any last thoughts about ice or franchising?

Marty:  I’ve seen the ugly side of ice machines and when I go out to eat, I only get bottled water.  I even insist on watching them open the bottle.  I don’t trust ice machines (other than Easy Ice’s) — too much bacteria if they’re not cleaned properly.  I’m an ice skeptic and I’m thankful to have Easy Ice at my restaurants.