Coca-Dr-Sprite-Pepper-Cola? Forget mixing your own as McDonald’s ditches self-serve sodas

A McDonald's beverage
McDonald’s plans to eliminate self-serve soda machines at all of its U.S. restaurants by 2032.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

It’s the end of an era: McDonald’s has begun to gradually phase out self-serve soda machines in dining rooms at its restaurants across the United States.

The company aims to complete the phaseout by 2032, citing changing consumer habits, including a surge in ordering from online apps and drive-throughs. That means fewer customers in the restaurants, serving themselves soft drinks.

A McDonald's restaurant
A surge in ordering via online apps and drive-throughs means fewer customers are in the restaurants, serving themselves soft drinks.
(Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)

The eatery, known for its golden arches, began installing the self-serve soda fountain in 2004, allowing customers to not only help themselves but also create combinations of differently flavored drinks.

“McDonald’s will be transitioning away from self-serve beverage stations in dining rooms across the U.S. by 2032,” the fast-food chain said in a statement to KTLA. “This 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.”

The reduction in foot traffic can also be seen in McDonald’s most recent earnings report, which stated that digital sales made up 40% of total sales.

The fast-food giant is also moving to reduce the sit-down dining space through the creation of small-format stores known as “CosMC’s,” a mini version of the eatery.

The change at McDonald’s is one of the many ways fast-food restaurants have shifted the dining experience in response to consumer behavior. Another notable change was reported at a Starbucks in the San Fernando Valley, which temporarily removed all of its furniture inside the restaurant, citing “safety concerns.”