McDonald’s phases out self-serve soft drinks

McDonald’s has announced it will transition away from self-serve beverage stations in dining rooms across the U.S. by 2032, in an effort intended “to create a consistent experience” for customers and staff.

With the change, customers will be required to go to the counter to ask for a refill.

PHOTO: A customer fills a 21 ounce cup with soda at a 'McDonalds' on Sept. 13, 2012 in New York City.

A customer fills a 21 ounce cup with soda at a ‘McDonalds’ on Sept. 13, 2012 in New York City.

Mario Tama/Getty Images, FILE

While the fast-food chain did not expand on potential health factors tied to the decision, as the Golden Arches slowly diverts diners from filling up soft drinks themselves, one unintentional yet potentially beneficial outcome could be that customers drink less of the carbonated high-in-sugar drinks.

It’s not news that consuming too much added sugar can pose a risk to one’s health. But with the average American consuming nearly double what’s recommended — over 17 teaspoons per day according to the American Heart Association — most people could use a little help steering clear of sweets.

“For a person consuming 2,000 calories a day, one [regular] soda contains nearly the maximum amount of added sugar that should be consumed in a day,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website.

PHOTO: A McDonald's customer grabs a cup of soda at a McDonald's in New York City, in this Sept. 13, 2012 file photo.

A McDonald’s customer grabs a cup of soda at a McDonald’s in New York City, in this Sept. 13, 2012 file photo.

Mario Tama/Getty Images, FILE

The agency also reports that “3 in 5 Americans aged 2 years and older exceed the recommendation to consume less than 10% of their total daily calories from added sugars on a given day.”

The State Journal-Register, a USA Today affiliate, was the first to report on Sept. 8 that several McDonald’s franchises in Illinois — where McDonald’s is headquartered — had already implemented the change. According to the outlet, store owner-operators cited “food safety, theft prevention and a lack of dine-in customers” as factors that went into the decision.

In the wake of the pandemic, which changed consumer habits, McDonald’s has been one of many quick service restaurants that’s seen a dip in in-person dining, with many opting for delivery and digital ordering, pointing to a potential shift to solely digital sales.

On a second quarter earnings call last month, Yum! Brands Inc. — the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut — CEO David W. Gibbs discussed the growth and success of converting to digital sales channels like kiosks, Food Business News reported. CFO Chris Turner similarly hinted that the fast-food chains could aim for 100% of their global system sales to be driven digitally.