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McDonald's removing soda fountains from dining rooms

The decision comes as McDonald's puts more emphasis on its delivery and carryout services as dining inside restaurants becomes less popular.
McDonald's removing soda fountains from dining rooms
Posted at 10:06 AM, Sep 12, 2023

The days of going to fill and refill your own soft drinks at McDonald's could be coming to an end. 

According to McDonald's USA, it is phasing out soda fountains in its U.S. dining rooms between now and 2032. 

“McDonald’s will be transitioning away from self-serve beverage stations in dining rooms across the U.S. by 2032,” the company said. “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 CEO Chris Kempczinski said in July that while McDonald's primary focus will remain on traditional units, the company will continue to test new concepts, such as a takeout-only location in Texas that opened last year. 

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Utilizing a takeout-only method allows McDonald's to open locations it previously could not have been able to, given the space needed for dining rooms. 

"A big reason that we can now look at those is because of the growth that's happened with the digital and delivery where you don't necessarily need the big dining rooms that you needed in our traditional restaurants," Kempczinski said. "So you're now able to look at real estate sites that previously would have been sort of off limits to us, those become opportunities. So we're taking all of those things together and rolling that up to get a perspective of what we think the new unit potential is going to be over the next four or five years."

Other fast food restaurants like Burger King and Wendy's also have self-serve soda fountains. Those companies have not said whether they're making similar considerations. 

Chick-fil-A is among the small number of fast-food restaurants that for the most part do not have self-serve drink machines. Instead, employees provide free refills for customers upon request. 

Soda fountains also require extensive daily cleaning. According to Coca-Cola, machines should be washed out with sanitizing solution on a daily basis, which also includes removing nozzles and diffusers. There are also more extensive weekly and monthly cleaning protocols for machines. 

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