McDonald’s is getting rid of self-serve soda fountains. Here’s when and what to know

The days of filling your own drink at McDonald’s are on their way out.

The fast-food giant is removing self-serve soda fountains from all U.S. restaurants by 2032, a move it says will provide a more consistent experience for customers and crew, according to a statement provided to McClatchy News.

Concerns about cleanliness, theft and changing customer habits are also reportedly behind the change, according to a report from The State Journal-Register in Illinois.

Drink machines have been a staple in McDonald’s dining rooms for decades, but customers will have to schlep to the counter for a refill in the future. Counter-drink refills are the norm at other fast-food establishments including Chick-fil-A.

“Free refills are a big draw for people,” Kim Derringer, operator of three McDonald’s franchises in Illinois, told the newspaper. “I don’t see anything taking that away.”

The switch also comes as customers increasingly order their food online or via third-party sites including Uber. Digital sales account for about 40% of McDonald’s sales, CNN reported, citing a recent earnings report.

Other chains including Starbucks and KFC have overhauled their customer experience in recent years, shifting toward more on-the-go options in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s just the latest shakeup for McDonald’s which boasts more than 13,400 restaurants across the U.S. In May, the restaurant said it was scrapping its McCafe bakery lineup after a three-year run.

The restaurant didn’t cite a specific reason for the change, but said it’s “always listening to our fans and adjusting our menu based on what they crave,” according to a statement.

“We know goodbyes are never easy – but fans can still satisfy their sweet tooth with our iconic Chocolate Chip Cookies, Baked Apple Pie and frozen desserts,” the spokesperson said.

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