Self-Serve Drinks on the Way Out at McDonald's

Customers will have to go to the counter and ask an employee
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2023 6:55 PM CDT
McDonald's Starts to Phase Out Self-Serve Drinks
A large soft drink with a plastic straw from a McDonald's restaurant is shown in Surfside, Florida, in 2018.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

McDonald's is taking back the job of pouring soft drinks. The company plans to phase out the self-serve fountain drink stations in its US restaurants by 2032, meaning that customers will no longer be handed an empty cup and allowed to mix and refill their drinks at will at a station in the dining room. A few locations already have made the transition. "It was an adjustment for customers and staff," said Brad Davis, a franchisee in Springfield, Illinois, per the State Journal-Register. "But we didn't get too many complaints on it."

One reason for the change to what the company calls a "crew pour" is that fewer people eat in the restaurants these days, instead placing digital orders or grabbing takeout. For third-party deliveries, employees fill soft drink orders in advance. Another reason is the emphasis on keeping public spaces clean and uncontaminated in the COVID-19 era; automated beverage systems will fill new cups each time, reducing human contact. The change will provide for consistency for customers and employees "across all ordering points, whether that's McDelivery, the app, kiosk, drive-thru or in-restaurant," the company told KTLA.

At certain locations, sometimes for trial runs, customers already are going to the main counter to ask for another drink. Another Springfield franchisee said that however customers get another round, the price will stay the same. "Free refills are a big draw for people," Kim Derringer said. "I don't see anything taking that away." (More McDonald's stories.)

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