It may be the end of an era at McDonald's restaurants, as it's now being reported that the fast food chain will stop offering self-serve soda fountain drinks. The change is reportedly being done as part of McDonald's new health and safety guidelines in a COVID-19 world, which includes a new 59-page instruction manual for sanitizing restaurants. McDonald's is moving towards re-opening its dining rooms, and the new protocols - including banning self-serve soda fountains- is expected to take effect in all of McDonald's 14,000 locations across the nation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"From the beginning of the crisis in February our safety and sanitation practices have been informed by guidance from both our own third-party contagious disease experts and the CDC," McDonald's said via press release. "Now, we're evolving these health and safety guidelines further by implementing nationwide standards for restaurant operations across all 14,000 U.S. restaurants."
Specifically, McDonald's will be taking a new approach to its dining rooms, enforcing social distancing in dining areas, and reportedly keeping the beverage service stations "closed or sectioned off" or "staffed in restaurants." That would likely mean McDonald's staff will distribute drinks to costumers, or would be required to man the drink station, in order to maintain the new sanitary standards. General sanitation of lobbies, dining areas, and bathrooms, have all be increased more frequent intervals.
You can already hear the drumbeat of those who will be screaming that this move by McDonald's somehow impedes their freedoms - but it does make sense. Anybody who works in the restaurant / food service business knows first and foremost just how quickly unsanitary a soda fountain station can become. In a COVID-19 world, most business won't likely be leaving any potential contamination up to the discretion of consumers. Supermarkets have already shutdown areas like self-serve salad and/or soup stations, and it should come as no surprise if similar self-serve dining options are shutdown across the industry.
Of course, this isn't the same kind of restriction as former NYC mayor Bloomberg's controversial soda ban in 2013. You can still get soda at McDonald's, you'll likely just have to have it poured by a staff member - which is basically the same as the drive-thru process. Only those accustomed to taking gross advantage of the free refill rule will really be affected by this. For McDonald's, it will likely be nice little revenue boost; staff will pour more precise increments than guests ever will, meaning less loss of product and more sales. With the added sanitary benefits, it's kind of a win-win.