McDonald’s to halt self-service for soda

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McDonald’s, the Chicago-based fast-food giant, has announced plans to discontinue self-service soda machines at its U.S. locations by 2032, as confirmed by the company this week. The decision’s impact on international outlets remains uncertain.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday, McDonald’s USA explained that the objective of this change is to ensure consistency for customers and staff throughout the chain’s diverse offerings, spanning in-person dining to online delivery and drive-thru services.

The company did not specify whether factors like financial considerations or sanitation influenced this decision to part with self-serve soda machines. For years, McDonald’s patrons have used these machines to fill and refill their beverages without requiring additional interaction with a cashier.

Some other fast-food chains have already implemented behind-the-counter soda machines, and a few McDonald’s locations in the United States have also initiated this transition. Notably, several Illinois-based outlets, as reported by The State Journal-Register last week, have begun phasing out self-service soda.

Analysts have observed changes in consumer behaviour since the COVID-19 pandemic, including a surge in digital and online delivery sales within the fast-food sector. Consequently, certain chains have explored methods to enhance drive-thru services or strengthen partnerships with food delivery apps. This includes Chipotle expanding its Carside pickup locations and Domino’s establishing a new collaboration with Uber Eats.

McDonald’s has witnessed remarkable growth in digital sales, encompassing app, delivery, and kiosk purchases, which constituted nearly 40% of systemwide sales in the second quarter of 2023. In July, the company reported a 14% revenue increase to $6.5 billion for the period, with net income nearly doubling to $2.3 billion for the quarter, surpassing analysts’ expectations.

However, some of these gains may taper off in the latter half of the year. McDonald’s anticipates that the price increases that have contributed to its recent sales growth will moderate as inflation abates, as stated by Chief Financial Officer Ian Borden during the Q2 earnings call in July.