- McDonald’s will phase out its self-serve drink stations by 2032, the company confirmed in an email to Restaurant Dive Tuesday.
- This transition will allow for a more “consistent experience” for customers and staff whether customers use McDelivery, mobile, kiosks, drive-thru or in-restaurant ordering channels, the company said.
- With fewer dining room customers and remodels featuring smaller dining rooms, operators are having a harder time justifying the need for a drink station, according to The State Journal-Register.
Some McDonald’s operators in Illinois have already begun the transition, using automated pour systems that help minimize human contact, The State Journal-Register reported. Self-serve soda machines were largely shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, so many crew members are already used to serving beverages from a back-of-house system.
Staff have also been pre-filling drinks for mobile orders, which have increased in the past few years. Digital sales across McDonald’s top six markets surpassed $8 billion during the second quarter, making up 40% of systemwide sales in those markets, according to an earnings release.
These crew-led systems also allow operators to create a more hospitable dining room in which meals are delivered to customers at their tables, according to The State Journal-Register. The new systems may reduce theft since customers will no longer be able to fill free water cups with soda.
McDonald’s has been looking at smaller format stores that lack the big dining rooms of traditional restaurants due to the growth of digital and delivery, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said during the company’s July earnings call. These restaurants open up new real estate opportunities that were previously unavailable using a traditional store format.
The company will test a small format concept, called CosMc, in early 2024, but it is unclear if these units will resemble McDonald’s Express units unveiled in the past. McDonald’s opened an off-premise test restaurant that is 26% smaller than its average restaurant, at the end of 2022 near Forth Worth, Texas.