McDonald’s to Discontinue Self-Serve Soda Fountains

McDonald’s is gradually removing soda-fountain machines from their dining rooms across the United States, where customers could previously refill their drinks multiple times.

McDonald’s is making significant changes in its dining rooms across the United States, as reported by ProfessPost and The State Journal-Register. The fast-food giant is phasing out self-serve soda-fountain machines, with the transition already underway in Illinois and western states. McDonald’s plans to complete this shift by 2032.

In a statement, McDonald’s stated that this move aims to ensure a consistent customer experience across all ordering methods, including McDelivery, the app, kiosks, drive-thrus, and in-restaurant dining. One notable change is the removal of self-serve beverage stations, which allowed customers to refill their drinks at will. At a renovated McDonald’s in Orange, California, the self-serve stations have already been replaced, and customers must now request refills at the counter.

Franchisees interviewed by the Journal-Register cited several reasons for eliminating soda fountains in dining rooms. These include concerns related to food safety, theft prevention, and a decline in dine-in customers. The transition includes the introduction of a “crew pour system” that utilizes automated beverage systems to prepare drinks, reducing human contact. This system also addresses theft issues and aligns with McDonald’s efforts to enhance the dine-in experience, featuring servers delivering meals to tables.

Furthermore, like many others in the industry, McDonald’s has witnessed a surge in takeout orders due to the increased use of digital ordering during the COVID-19 pandemic. This shift reflects an industry-wide trend toward greater convenience, as noted by Mikel Petro, a central Illinois franchisee who owns 15 McDonald’s locations. He emphasized that this change is a response to the growing importance of digital services in the fast-food landscape.

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