McDonald’s Plans to Ditch Self-Serve Sodas

In the future, pouring your own refills will be a thing of the past.

September 13, 2023


Photo by: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Mario Tama/Getty Images

One important decision must be made whenever you decide to grab some fast food: Delivery, dine-in or drive-thru? But one of those options provides a perk the other two just can’t match. Sitting down to eat at a fast-food restaurant often means having access to all of the soft drinks on tap (or if you’re really lucky, one of those Coca-Cola Freestyle machines) to mix and match and sample as you please. However, according to a recent announcement, the McDonald’s of the future won’t be offering those self-service soda refills.

But don’t fret about your free Diet Coke refill just yet. The phasing out of dining room soda fountains across all of McDonald’s 13,000-plus U.S. locations will occur on an ongoing basis over the next nine years. “McDonald’s will be transitioning away from self-serve beverage stations in dining rooms across the U.S. by 2032,” a statement from the brand reads. “The change is intended to create a consistent experience for both customers and crew across all ordering points, whether that’s McDelivery, the app, kiosk, drive-thru or in-restaurant.”

According to recent earnings figures, digital orders (those made on the McDonald’s app and website or via various delivery app partners) currently comprise 40 percent of sales, CNN reports. And drive-thru sales, historically, have eclipsed dine-in even before the COVID-19 pandemic altered many customers’ dining preferences. With so many people opting not to eat inside a McDonald’s restaurant, perhaps it’s no wonder that the chain would choose not to offer — or maintain — separate drink dispensers in its dining rooms.

According to Springfield, Illinois newspaper The State Journal-Register, which first reported the story, some locations already opt to bring food out to diners at their table as part of an enhanced dine-in service, meaning the drinks are poured by the staff (or automated machine) anyway — and yes, refills can be requested. “Free refills are a big draw for people,” local franchise operator Kim Derringer tells the paper. “I don’t see anything taking that away.”

We’ve all seen that “at participating locations” fine print in fast food ads, but in the case of ditching self-serve drinks, it seems every McDonald’s will be participating; it’s just a matter of when.

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