McDonald’s Says ‘No More’

( – Marking both a casualty and an identity crisis over extreme prices, McDonald’s customers are now saying goodbye to one of the company’s most requested services, as the brand says ‘no more’ to free refill drinks.

A recent customer in Pittsburgh told that McDonald’s now charges for drink refills, something once a given for free universally embraced by fast-food chains.

“What is the world coming to?” a man lamented on X.

Last year, it was reported that McDonald’s would phase out self-serve soda fountains by 2032, although a representative said that refill charges would vary at the discretion of franchise owners.

However, this new policy is not only part of McDonald’s, but as other establishments also signal a similar shift, urging consumers to purchase an additional beverage.

CEO of consulting firm FoodserviceResults, Darren Tristano, said, “McDonald’s tends to be a leader in the industry. And very often, when they make big changes, other restaurants follow suit. McDonald’s is very smart about their costs.”

Furthermore, Panera Bread and Wegmans’ observations noted the disappearance of self-serve stations.

Professor at Cornell University, Alex Susskind, remarked that many food courts in western New York and Pennsylvania are now keeping their machines behind counters.

While the self-serve stations seemed revolutionary in 2004, Susskind now sees them as burdensome.

“The amount of cleaning and upkeep that’s required for these guest-facing dispensers is pretty significant,” he explained. “The ice has to be replaced, you have to clean up the mess, you have to pick up the straw fragments.”

Former McDonald’s corporate Chef and TikTok personality Mike Haracz also weighed in and suggested theft prevention and operational efficiency as likely motivations for the change. He highlighted the operational preference for drive-thru service.

“Most of McDonald’s business is through the drive-thru. And it does cost McDonald’s more money to deal with people who come into the restaurant than it does drive-thru,” Haracz posted in a video.

According to David Henkes of Technomic, the decline in dine-in traffic supports this strategy. He suggested that economic prudence also influenced the decision to eliminate refills.

“It’s essentially pennies per drink for the cost of the syrup,” Henkes revealed to Marketplace. “It’s a good business, and that’s why a lot of times, you see companies doing any size for $1.”

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