You’re going to have to say goodbye to self-serve beverage stations at McDonald’s. The fast food chain is phasing out soda stations from its restaurants nationwide within the next decade. By 2032, all customers will receive their drinks directly from McDonald’s crew members. No longer will you get an empty cup to fill with ice and whatever beverage combination you’d like from the drink station. And if you want a refill, you’ll have to ask for it.
Why the switch?
“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,” the company said in a statement to USA Today. In other words, if drive-through or delivery customers don’t get to mix and match soda flavors, diners in the restaurant don’t get to, either.
McDonald’s has already eliminated the self-serve station in many restaurants, including several in Illinois. When franchise owners were interviewed by Springfield’s State Journal-Register, they offered other reasons for the change — including theft protection and food safety.
But no doubt a major factor driving the change is that fewer customers are dining in these days. According to the market research group NPD, 85% of fast food restaurant orders were to-go last year. And about 75% of the orders came from customers in the drive-through.
But that doesn’t mean everyone’s OK with the new policy. In fact, there’s been quite a lot of grumbling about the change on X (formerly Twitter).
“Food safety I semi-get, but there’s no way their profits are tanking because someone’s bogarting gallons of Hi-C,” wrote @donnastphibes.
“We can’t even get an employee at the counter to take an order and they force you to use the kiosks, but they want you to flag someone down to get a refill? Come on,” wrote @Yeah1KnowBut.
“Now I can’t make the weird Hi-C Coke Sprite mix anymore,” wrote @mkliberal1138.
One commenter did post a semi-positive take: “Seems fine to me,” wrote @metridiumfields. “Free refills just encourage people to drink more sugary soda than they need.”
That’s actually a good point!