McDonald’s Plans to Phase Out Its Self-Serve Fountain Drink Stations
According to CNN, McDonald’s is planning to remove self-serve fountain drink stations from all of its restaurants by 2032. They’ve been a fixture in most locations for nearly 20 years, so this will be a big change for McDonald’s regular customers.
The good news is that free refills are expected to remain part of the McDonald’s experience, but they will eventually be poured for you by a crew member behind the counter.
Since McDonald’s is giving franchise owners plenty of time to adapt, dine-in customers can still expect to use the self-serve beverage stations at most locations for now. However, some customers are already reporting changes at select restaurants.
McDonald’s corporate office explained this decision as part of a bigger push to standardize the experience for customers and crew across the chain. Franchise operators add that there are likely many other factors behind the move away from self-serve fountain drinks.
Removing the drink stations is expected to save money by reducing theft and eliminating the time spent cleaning these heavily used machines.
The COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted the issue of keeping these high-touch spaces clean. As a result, the new machines installed behind the counter will use automated beverage systems to mechanically fill drink orders, minimizing human contact. They will also use new cups for each refill.
In addition to saving money, this move is also a response to the shrinking number of people who choose to dine in at McDonald’s. Employees are already filling drinks for drive-in and app customers, so it’s hard to justify the space occupied by the drink stations for the small number of customers who eat inside the restaurant.
For those who do opt to dine in at McDonald’s, the brand hopes to create a more relaxed experience with servers delivering meals (and drinks) right to your table.
While it’s good to know that free refills aren’t going anywhere, many customers may not want a “standardized” drink experience. Will the automated machine behind the counter be able to pour me a Diet Coke with a splash of Dr. Pepper and light ice? Will kids still be able to enjoy the childhood tradition of adding a little bit of everything to their cup?
This news has us wondering whether it will be possible to truly customize a drink once the self-serve option goes away.
What do you think about the impending demise of McDonald’s self-serve drink stations? Does your McDonald’s still have this option? Let us know in the comments below!