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McDonald's to remove self-serve soda stations in US by 2032

McDonald's is planning to make a big change inside its U.S. locations.

WASHINGTON — Self-serve beverage stations, home to unlimited soft drink combinations and a staple of the fast-food restaurant experience, will be leaving your local McDonald's in the coming years. 

The Chicago-based fast-food giant confirmed that it is transitioning away from self-serve beverages across the U.S. by 2032. According to the company, the move is intended to make a consistent experience for customers and workers across the chain. 

The news was first reported by the State Journal-Register in Illinois, where several restaurants have already started the process of removing the self-serve stations. 

Self-serve beverage stations are a key part of the McDonald's experience, allowing customers to refill their drinks with ease. Soon, customers will have to ask employees for refills. 

According to the State Journal-Register, several factors are contributing to the decision to cut soda machines from the front of the restaurants, including food safety, theft prevention and the number of dine-in customers. 

McDonald's, like many popular food chains, is seeing an increase in take-out or delivery orders. The company has in recent years partnered with delivery apps such as UberEats and DoorDash to put its menu prominently on those apps. 

"It's an evolution towards convenience and (the result of) the growth of digital service," franchisee Mikel Petro, who owns 15 McDonald's locations, told the State Journal-Register.

McDonald's is the latest company to experiment with new soft drink ideas in an effort to save money. 

Traditional soda machines are hooked up to bags of syrup used to flavor the carbonated water mixed in by the machine, leading to the inevitable problem of having a limited amount of space for different product options. In an attempt to fix this issue, Coca-Cola — one of the largest suppliers of drinks to fast food restaurants — has begun rolling out touch screen soda fountains that allow users to select from more than 150 different options, and mix their own flavors. These drinks are individually dispensed, meaning the machines aren't tied to a fixed number of syrup bags determining how many drinks are on tap. 

Credit: AP
A McDonald's iced tea sits in a beverage holder in a vehicle, Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa.

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