McDonald’s Phasing Out Self-Serve Soda Machines: What It Means for Small Business Owners

McDonald's says it plans to phase out self-serve soda fountains by 2032.

Fast-food titan, McDonald’s, is saying goodbye to self-serve soda machines by 2032 in its US outlets, according to a CNN report. Small business owners should take note, as this move highlights the changing landscape of customer preferences and how giants in the industry are adapting.

Over the years, McDonald’s self-serve fountains became synonymous with the dine-in experience, offering customers the liberty to refill their beverages. However, post-pandemic consumer patterns reveal a pivot towards drive-thru and delivery services. This shift has led to fewer folks opting for in-house dining, diminishing the machines’ relevance.

What’s captivating is McDonald’s embracing this “new normal.” Nearly 40% of its sales now come from digital channels, such as their app and third-party platforms like Uber. The brand is also innovating with its upcoming “CosMc’s” format, hinting at spaces with minimized or absent dining areas. Though detailed plans remain under wraps, CEO Chris Kempczinski points to vast opportunities in regions where there’s space for brand growth.

For small businesses, this is a bellwether moment. If a giant like McDonald’s is adapting to consumer shifts this aggressively, it underscores the importance of staying agile and responsive to changing customer behaviors. Small restaurants and cafes might consider:

  1. Evaluating their dining space: Is there potential for better utilization?
  2. Embracing digital: Investing in online platforms can lead to a spike in sales.
  3. Reassessing service models: It might be time to rethink self-serve options or invest in drive-thrus and efficient delivery.

The pandemic has changed the face of business. For those ready to adapt and innovate, the future holds some promise.

Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 16 years. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.