NEW YORK -- McDonald's is getting rid of one of its biggest perks.
The fast food chain is eliminating its self-serve soda machines by 2032 at its US restaurants, the company said, explaining that the change will make the experience consistent for customers and crew across the chain.
For decades, McDonald's let customers fill (and refill) their own drinks at its dining rooms. However, consumer behavior has changed since the pandemic, and the chain has experienced a surge in business through its drive-thru and delivery services, with fewer people choosing to eat in its dining rooms, reducing the need for the machines.
McDonald's future includes restaurant designs with smaller or no dining rooms (and high-tech drive thrus) to reflect that new reality. Digital sales (i.e. orders made on its app or through its partners like Uber) now make up 40% of its total sales, according to its most recent earnings report.
The chain also recently teased another major change, called "CosMc's," a new small-format location that includes a reduced dining area.
"There's a number of places around the US where we are significantly underdeveloped relative to where the population exists today," CEO Chris Kempczinski told analysts in June. "That opens up for us a whole bunch of development opportunities for us to go after."
In the past, ditching dining rooms was "off limits" but customer habits have changed so much since the height of the pandemic. McDonald's hasn't released further details about the "CosMc" concept.
Other chains are experimenting with reinventing their designs too, including Chipotle, Taco Bell and Starbucks.
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