McDonald’s is tipped to scrap self-serve soda fountains at its restaurants to minimize human contact and ensure higher hygiene standards.
Some franchise owners in Illinois have already adopted the new measures and stopped offering customers empty cups to collect their free refills independently.
But they insisted McDonald’s will still guarantee they can grab as many drinks as they link once the fountains are gone for good.
The phase-out process is expected to take until 2032, with some franchisees reporting good results after an initial settling-in period.
“Free refills are a big draw for people. I don’t see anything taking that away,” Kim Derringer, who runs a McDonald’s in Springfield, said.
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Franchise owner Brad Davis told The State Journal-Register that the company’s headquarters had selected his restaurant on South Sixth Street to pilot the new scheme.
He noted the change “was an adjustment” for his customers after staff stopped handing out the empty cups “but we didn’t get too many complaints on it.”
One franchise owner in Lincoln, Ill. said he plans to renovate his shop to have power and plumbing installed to operate a new soda fountain behind the counter.
“It’s an evolution towards convenience and “the result of) the growth of digital service,” said Mikel Pedro.
Local franchise owners have suggested the move is part of efforts to minimize human contact in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Free refills are a big draw for people. I don’t see anything taking that away,” Kim Derringer, who operates McDonald’s I Springfield, said.
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The reports suggest McDonald’s is already working on transitioning to an automated system that would allow customers to pour their drinks without having to push a button.
Owners have also noted the new approach will cut down on theft and give customers a fuller restaurant experience by having staff bring them drinks and food.
The company has been pursuing a series of charges in light of the growing number of customers opting to have their food delivered at home.
McDonald’s first introduced self-serve soda machines in 2004 but some franchises around the world have already been operating without them for years.
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