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Is McDonald's Getting Rid of Free Drink Refills? Here's What We Know

The chain is phasing out the self-serve drink stations, prompting additional changes to refill policy.

McDonald's announced last year that it would begin phasing out its self-serve drink stations inside restaurants to make the dining experience more consistent for guests and employees. Now, customers might have to make peace with another major change to McDonald's soft drink rules.

Some McDonald's stores may start charging customers for drink refillsa development linked to the upcoming elimination of self-serve drink machines. Once the soda fountains are gone, customers who place their orders inside a McDonald's restaurant will have to rely on employees to fill their drinks behind the counter. And should a dine-in customer request a drink refill at the counter, it will be up to individual franchisees to decide whether to charge for that refill, the company recently confirmed to USA Today.

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The good news is that McDonald's doesn't expect to fully get rid of its self-serve drink stations until 2032. So customers could still have years to enjoy free refills when they dine at the chain in person.

McDonald's self-serve drink station
Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock

It's also very possible that many franchisees will choose to continue handing out drink refills for free even after the self-serve stations are gone. However, at least one McDonald's location has reportedly started to charge for over-the-counter refills. An Uber Eats driver recently told the news site Marketplace that a Pittsburgh McDonald's had already eliminated the self-serve machines and started asking customers to pay for refills.

We'll have to wait and see if more stores will follow in the Pittsburgh location's footsteps. In the meantime, McDonald's customers have not taken kindly to the potential loss of their free refills.

"What is the world coming to?" one customer lamented in a recent X post.

"This is absurd," another wrote.

Drive-thru customers won't see any changes to their McDonald's experience once the self-serve stations are gone since employees already fill their drinks for them.

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In other McDonald's news, the chain just launched a new Grandma McFlurry (600 calories) made with creamy vanilla soft serve, syrup, and crunchy candy pieces. It will only be available for a limited time, so interested customers shouldn't wait too long before heading over to snag the dessert.

According to CNBC, McDonald's is also gearing up to launch a $5 value meal on June 25 amid mounting complaints about its prices and value.  The meal will reportedly include a four-piece Chicken McNuggets (170 calories), fries (230 calories per small order), a drink, and the customer's choice of either a McChicken (400 calories) or McDouble (400 calories).

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe
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