McDonald’s to eliminate self-serve soda machines at U.S. locations

McDonald's to eliminate self-serve soda machines at U.S. locations | Enterprise Wired

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Bid farewell to the days of refilling your Coke at McDonald’s. The fast-food giant is phasing out self-serve soda stations.

This week, McDonald’s confirmed its plans to discontinue self-service soda machines at its U.S. restaurants by 2032. The fate of such machines at international locations remains uncertain.

Financial Considerations or Sanitation Concerns

According to McDonald’s USA, the objective behind this change is to establish uniformity for customers and staff members across the entire spectrum of the chain’s services, ranging from dine-in experiences to online orders and drive-thru options. However, the company did not specify whether other factors, such as financial considerations or sanitation concerns, contributed to the decision to bid farewell to self-serve machines. For years, patrons of McDonald’s have utilized these machines to fill and refill their beverages without the need to visit a cashier.

Some other fast-food chains already employ behind-the-counter soda machines, and a few McDonald’s outlets across the country have initiated the transition. For example, several Illinois locations, as reported by The State Journal-Register last week, are gradually phasing out self-serve soda.

In recent times, industry analysts have noted shifts in consumer behavior precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including an increase in digital and online delivery sales at fast-food establishments. Consequently, certain chains have explored ways to enhance their drive-thru services or strengthen partnerships with food delivery applications. For instance, Chipotle has expanded its Carside pickup locations, and Domino’s has entered into a new collaboration with Uber Eats. In McDonald’s case, digital sales, encompassing app usage, delivery orders, and kiosk purchases, accounted for nearly 40% of systemwide sales in the second quarter of 2023. The company reported a 14% increase in revenue, reaching $6.5 billion for the period, and net income nearly doubled to $2.3 billion for the quarter, surpassing analysts’ expectations.

Beverage Stations

However, some of these gains may taper off in the latter half of the year. Chief Financial Officer Ian Borden indicated during the Q2 earnings call in July that the price hikes that have boosted McDonald’s sales in recent quarters will ease as inflation subsides.

McDonald’s, as confirmed by the company to CBS News on Tuesday, intends to phase out self-service “beverage stations” at its U.S. establishments by 2032. There is no information available regarding the potential impact on international branches.

Observant customers on social media have noted that certain locations have already removed their self-serve soda machines. For instance, a customer on Twitter’s platform, now called X, shared that this change recently occurred at their usual McDonald’s spot. According to the customer, when they requested a refill from an employee, it took more than five minutes to receive their drink.

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