former McDonald's corporate chef speaking with caption 'McDonald's NEWS!!! Beverage stations are gone. but McDonald's has just announced' (l) McDonald's drink station (c) former McDonald's corporate chef speaking with caption 'McDonald's NEWS!!! Beverage stations are gone that they are getting rid of the self service beverage stations' (r)

Eric Broder Van Dyke/Shutterstock @chefmikeharacz/TikTok (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

‘I don’t know what this means for free refills…’: McDonald’s former corporate chef discusses fallout from removal of self-serve beverage station

'Don't drinks cost them like 5¢'


Jack Alban


Posted on Sep 13, 2023

If you’re a fan of dining in at McDonald’s so you can top yourself off with a refill before you head on your merry way, you might be disappointed to hear that the popular burger franchise is doing away with soda self-service.

Former McDonald’s corporate chef Mike Haracz (@chefmikeharacz) discussed the chain’s decision to wrestle soda machine control from the hands of its customers in a viral TikTok.

He speculates that Mickey D’s reason for doing so could be a lack of on-hand resources during the day to closely monitor and clean soda machines, but also stated that he found one of the “official” reasons the chain decided to pull the plug on soda self-service to be “interesting.”

@chefmikeharacz Former #McDonalds corporate chef had breaking news! #mcdonaldssecrets #McDonaldsSecret #mcdonaldslife #mcdonaldsdrinks #mcdonaldsdrinkhack #mcdonaldsdrink #mcdonaldsdrinkorder #mcdonaldsdrinksaresuperior #FastFood #FastFoodSecrets #FastFoodNews #Coke #cocacola #FYP ♬ original sound – Chef Mike Haracz

Haracz speaks directly into the lens of the camera in his clip where he first states that the restaurant’s decision leaves the future of free refills up in the air.

“Your Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, whatever, you will no longer be able to get them in the restaurant in the front of the house,” he says. “You’re gonna have to order it. You’re gonna get one. I don’t know what that means about free refills, which seems like that’s not gonna happen.”

Then, he started to get into McDonald’s reasoning for putting soda machines exclusively behind the counter, along with his own interpretation as to what these reasons could mean.

“They are citing that it is because of theft, which is interesting, and sanitation,” Haracz says. “So because they don’t have enough people to clean it and maintain it, they’re just going to get rid of it, is what I’m thinking. That is one less person, human, that McDonald’s needs to hire to manage and maintain it.”

He also discusses the potential integration of artificial intelligence.

“I know they’ve also, I’ve seen some McDonald’s franchisees very supportive of AI and AI order-taking, AI at the drive-thru,” he shares. “So it looks like they’re trying to do as much as they possibly can with less people. That’s less money that they have to pay employees, less people in the restaurant to manage and maintain these things.”

A report from CNN on the chain’s soda re-maneuver seems to suggest that this could be a demonstrative choice from the franchise to shift away from dining rooms entirely. According to the outlet, customer statistics have shown that fewer and fewer patrons are utilizing dining rooms, meaning that there isn’t as much of a need for self-service soda machines in locations.

The State-Journal Register of Illinois named McDonald’s decision to put machines behind the counter as the “Crew Pour System” and seems to be the source Haracz was referring to when he delved into the impetus behind Mickey D’s decision to eliminate the self-serve option. “The crew pour system — which actually will use automated beverage systems to mechanically fill drink orders — minimizes human contact,” the article states. “Crew pour also eliminates theft and emphasizes the brand’s new focus on creating a more relaxed dine-in experience complete with servers delivering meals to the table.”

However, there were some viewers of Haracz’s clip who weren’t sold on the “theft” claim from the fast food retailer.

“Don’t drinks cost them like 5¢,” one user wrote.

Another commenter said that the chain’s shift towards a more hands-off customer service approach didn’t exactly gel with them. They wrote, “My local McDonald’s required I ordered at the kiosk instead of the counter. I turned around and walked out.”

Someone else said that they’ve seen evidence of this too. “Our McDonald’s can’t even staff the inside lobby – it’s drive through only most of the time,” they claimed.

One TikToker said they’ve already seen their local McDonald’s remove the self-serve soda fountain after it was remodeled: “A McDonald’s near us just finished a remodel and the drink station is gone.”

Still, some users on the platform who didn’t seem fazed by the removal of the self-serve soda fountain stations.

As one wrote, “I never go inside anyway. Ordering on the app is a dream come true.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to McDonald’s and Haracz via email for further comment.

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*First Published: Sep 13, 2023, 12:07 pm CDT