Operations

McDonald's is getting rid of its self-serve drink stations

The burger giant is ditching self-serve soft drinks by 2032 to “create a consistent experience” across its different ordering channels.
McDonald's beverages
McDonald's is phasing out its self-serve beverage stations by 2032. | Photo: Shutterstock.

Well, at least you won’t be required to fill your own Coke at McDonald’s anymore.

The Chicago-based burger giant is getting rid of its self-serve beverage stations. The company said in a statement that it is phasing them out of its dining rooms in the U.S., with plans to get rid of the stations by 2032.

Blame the shift to takeout. The company said that it wants to “create a consistent experience” across its different ordering points.

“McDonald’s will be transitioning away from self-serve beverage stations in dining rooms across the U.S. by 2032,” the company said in a statement. “The 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.”

McDonald’s has let customers pour their own soft drinks for decades, mimicking the service provided at many convenience stores. The self-service enabled dine-in customers to get smaller beverages but easily get refills to improve the value of their purchase.

But that benefit has become increasingly obsolete as a growing percentage of its business has shifted to takeout. Even before the pandemic, more than two-thirds of the chain’s business came through the drive-thru. That has only increased since the pandemic.

Meanwhile, more of the business generated inside the restaurant is coming through takeout ordering channels, such as delivery or mobile order.

The move continues the industry’s shift toward different business models and other service options as more fast-food business comes through channels other than the typical dining room. More companies are testing digital-only restaurants or seatless restaurants. They’re adding self-order kiosks inside their restaurants and mobile-order lanes or pickup windows outside.

Other companies are toying with their menu, such as Panera Bread, which has tested a major reduction in the size of its menu.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.

Multimedia

Exclusive Content

Financing

Crumbl may be the next frozen yogurt, or the next Krispy Kreme

The Bottom Line: With word that the chain’s unit volumes took a nosedive last year, its future, and that of its operators, depends on what the brand does next.

Technology

4 things we learned in a wild week for restaurant tech

Tech Check: If you blinked, you may have missed three funding rounds, two acquisitions, a “never-before-seen” new product and a bold executive poaching. Let’s get caught up.

Financing

High restaurant menu prices mean high customer expectations

The Bottom Line: Diners are paying high prices to eat out at all kinds of restaurants these days. And they’re picking winners and losers.

Trending

More from our partners