BUSINESS + ECONOMY

McDonald’s is saying goodbye to self-serve soda in the coming years

Sep 13, 2023, 6:00 AM

FILE - A McDonald's restaurant is seen, Feb. 14, 2018, in Ridgeland, Miss. McDonald's plans to elim...

FILE - A McDonald's restaurant is seen, Feb. 14, 2018, in Ridgeland, Miss. McDonald's plans to eliminate self-service soda machines at all of its U.S. restaurants by 2032, the Chicago-based fast food chain has confirmed. In an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, McDonald's USA said the goal of the change is to create consistency for customers and crew members across the chain's offerings — from in-person dining to online delivery and drive-thru options. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Say goodbye to refilling that Coke. McDonald’s is getting rid of self-served soda.

The Chicago-based fast food chain plans to eliminate self-service soda machines at its U.S. restaurants by 2032, McDonald’s confirmed this week. It’s unclear if locations outside the U.S. will follow suit.

In an email to The Associated Press Tuesday, McDonald’s USA said the goal of the change is to create consistency for customers and crew members across the chain’s offerings — from in-person dining to online delivery and drive-thru options.

The company did not specify if any additional factors — such as finances or sanitation — impacted the decision to part ways with its self-serve machines. For years, McDonald’s customers have used the machines to fill and refill their beverages without additional trips to a cashier.

Behind-the-counter soda machines already exist at some other fast food chains — and a handful of McDonald’s locations across the country have also begun the transition. According to The State Journal-Register, which first reported on the company’s plans last week, several locations in Illinois, for example, are starting to phase out self-service soda.

Over recent years, analysts have also pointed to changes in consumer behavior since the COVID-19 pandemic — including an uptick in digital and online delivery sales among fast food restaurants. As a result, some chains have toyed with enhancing drive-thrus or strengthening connections with food delivery apps — from Chipotle growing its Carside pickup locations to Domino’s penning a new partnership with Uber Eats.

McDonald’s digital sales — made up of app, delivery and kiosk purchases — accounted for almost 40% of systemwide sales for the second quarter of 2023. Revenue rose 14% to $6.5 billion for the period, the chain reported in July, and net income nearly doubled to $2.3 billion for the quarter — exceeding analysts’ expectations.

Some of those gains may fade a bit in the second half of the year. The price increases that have helped fuel McDonald’s sales in recent quarters will moderate as inflation comes down, Chief Financial Officer Ian Borden said during July’s Q2 earnings call.

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McDonald’s is saying goodbye to self-serve soda in the coming years