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 four stand-alone locations plus one in a Walmart.
The Iceologist: When did you get into the franchise business?
Marty: October 1, 2000. It all worked out very well and has been a good experience.
The Iceologist: What attracted you to McDonald’s when there were so many franchise opportunities?
Marty: My wife was working for McDonald’s as a regional manager. I did some investigating and found McDonald’s to be a lower-risk option than other franchises like KFC and Burger King.
The Iceologist: So, your wife comes from a food service background. Do you?
Marty: No. I came out of high tech. I was an 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. You could be upside down in any given month if you’re not careful. 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 Easy Ice for your ice machines?
Marty: The fixed costs of subscriptions were the most significant 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 critical, and we need more. So, 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 me every month. No surprises!
Easy Ice is in my delight column!
The Iceologist: How have ice machine subscriptions changed how you run your franchises?
Marty: It’s 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 considering getting into the franchise game?
Marty: It depends on which franchise you choose. Franchising is a lower-risk option in the restaurant business and a lower return, and you need to consider that. It would be best if you were realistic about what your return will 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. A 7-11 convenience store is a good option because you need fewer employees.
Another piece of advice is to 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 is 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 every day, 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 five kids and four 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. So, I’m an ice skeptic and thankful to have Easy Ice at my restaurants.
As the Co-Founder and COO of Easy Ice, John Mahlmeister has been working in the commercial ice machine industry since 2009. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the only national provider of full-service ice machine subscriptions in the industry. Since Easy Ice was founded, the number of ice machines under its management has grown to over 30,000 units across 47 states, with no signs of slowing down.
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