By virtue of being the world’s largest fast-food chain, there are certain things about McDonald’s that customers have gotten very used to. The signature fries, the nigh-mythical McRib, iconic breakfast hash browns and dollar beverages are just some of the things that customers have grown to appreciate since the restaurant was founded in 1940. (The modern iteration of the restaurant is largely considered to have began in 1955, when businessman Ray Kroc ultimately joined the team and purchased the franchise from the McDonald’s brothers.) That being said, McDonald’s fans have also grown accustomed to permanent changes in the restaurant — think of discontinued items like McSalad Shakers and the McPizza. The latest change, however, is a big one and has nothing to do with the food at the restaurant. No, according to The State Journal-Register, this change has everything to do with those tall, frosty Coca-Cola-based beverages that have become synonymous with those numbered combo meals at the fast-food chain. The Illinois-based outlet, citing multiple local franchise owners, is reporting that McDonald’s corporate has passed down an edict to phase out self-service soda fountains by 2032. Obviously, this is a slow and deliberate rollout, so there will be less of a shock to the system of customers. But it’s still a jarring change, and the franchise owners are aware of it. Perhaps honing in on exactly what customers would complain about, Kim Derringer (who operates a trio of local restaurants) told the Journal-Register that refills would still be free — customers just won’t be able to grab it on their own whim. “Free refills are a big draw for people,” Derringer told the outlet. “I don’t see anything taking that away.” Franchise owner Brad Davis was tabbed by the corporate team to test out this “crew pour” (wherein the customer hands his or her cup to an employee for a refill) system and revealed that while it was “an adjustment for customers and staff,” his team “didn’t get too many complaints on it.” As for why this rollout is happening, McDonald’s cited three key factors.
- Hygiene/Cleanliness: Citing challenges that first cropped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, McDonald’s appears to be acknowledging the difficulties of keeping soda fountains completely clean. As any restaurant owner or health inspector can tell you, public soda fountains are a haven for all sorts of bacterial buildup, including salmonella.
- Theft: The “crew pour” system effectively eliminates anyone being able to steal soda (for example, in water cups).
- Customer Demand: Customers simply do not frequent the dining room of fast food restaurants the same way they used to, thus greatly diminishing the need for self-service soda fountains.