Sep 12, 2023 - Economy

McDonald's begins phasing out self-serve soda fountains

Illustration of an hourglass filled up with soda, instead of sand, falling to the bottom.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The days of filling up your own drink at McDonald's are numbered.

Driving the news: McDonald's on Tuesday confirmed to Axios that it will phase out self-serve beverage stations in its U.S. restaurants by 2032.

  • The fast-food chain said the change was intended to create a consistent experience across different ordering options for customers and employees.

The big picture: Fewer consumers are dining in fast-food restaurants since the pandemic, opting instead for drive-thru, delivery and mobile ordering options.

  • McDonald's and its competitors are pushing for more efficient drive-thrus and testing restaurant concepts that eliminate or shrink dining rooms.

Between the lines: Franchisees say the pandemic raised concerns about how to keep self-serve stations clean, while theft is also a problem, reports the State Journal-Register in Illinois, which first reported the story.

  • The transition to a new "crew pour" system has already begun at some Illinois locations, the Journal-Register wrote.

Worth noting: Free refills aren't going anywhere for sit-down diners. This is America, after all.

  • But you'll have to ask someone at the counter, like the old days.

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