Sad news for fans of the seemingly ubiquitous $1 any-size McDonald's beverage: Inflation may be putting an end to it, or at least to its ubiquity. Franchisees tell the Wall Street Journal some owners have decided to get rid of the dollar deal even though the fast food company is officially recommending they keep it in an attempt to drive traffic to the stores, and some customers tell the newspaper they have indeed encountered higher prices. For example, a small drink still costs $1 at some locations, but a medium is $1.29 or $1.39 and a large is $1.49 or $1.69. Other owners have not increased prices yet, but have voted to do so shortly, while still others are keeping the price for any size cold drink at $1 for now.
Out of 56 McDonald's markets in the US, 16 restaurant co-ops voted to spend advertising dollars on the chain's value menu instead of $1 drinks—meaning owners are free to ditch the drink deal. Some locations that dropped the deal as a permanent menu addition are still offering it as a limited-time promotion. One franchisee tells the Journal that getting rid of $1 drinks "significantly" helped profits. Owners were warned late last year that food, paper, and labor costs were going to sharply rise this year thanks to inflation, and in January, the company agreed owners could suspend the $1 deal if they wanted to.
After it was launched in 2008 as a summertime promo, the $1 drink deal was expanded to all sizes and lasted a longer amount of time starting in 2010, and in 2017 it became a year-round promo. The fact that those days have come to an end, at least in some locations, has led to a social media outcry. "@McDonalds I am appalled that I can’t get any size drink for $1," reads one sample Twitter reaction. "You were the one thing that was constant and trustworthy." Earlier this year, the Journal reported that many fast food chains were cutting back on their value menus due to inflation. Fortune reports that while fast food has traditionally gotten lower in price over time thanks to industrialization, that's no longer the case: "The inflationary 2020s mean fast food just isn’t cheap anymore." (More McDonald's stories.)