- Self-serve soda fountains allow consumers to refill multiple times at fast-food restaurants.
- But, McDonald's said it is phasing out soda fountain machines in dining rooms across the US.
- Franchisees say shrinking dining room visits and food safety are factors in pulling the dispensers.
Dollar items are vanishing at McDonald's. The next thing to go: self-serve drinks.
The burger chain is phasing out soda fountain machines in dining rooms across the US, the company told Insider in a statement. The news was first reported by the State Journal-Register, citing several franchisees in Illinois. Restaurants in Illinois have already started the process, along with stores out West.
"McDonald's will be transitioning away from self-serve beverage stations in dining rooms across the U.S. by 2032," McDonald's said in a statement to Insider. " This 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."
Self-serve soda fountains allow fast-food consumers to refill multiple times. At a remodeled McDonald's in Orange, California, the self-serve beverage station has already been removed. Customers at that store must ask for refills at the counter.
The owner-operators interviewed by the State Journal-Register said several factors contributed to axing the soda machines from dining rooms, including food safety, theft prevention, and fewer dine-in customers.
"The crew pour system – which actually will use automated beverage systems to mechanically fill drink orders – minimizes human contact," the State-Journal reported. "Crew pour also eliminates theft and emphasizes the brand's new focus on creating a more relaxed dine-in experience complete with servers delivering meals to the table."
McDonald's, like the rest of the industry, is also seeing more consumers order food for takeout as digital orders increase in a post-pandemic environment.
"It's an evolution towards convenience and (the result of) the growth of digital service," franchisee Mikel Petro, who owns 15 McDonald's in central Illinois, told the State Journal-Register.