Is this quick service restaurant staple gone forever?

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) /

One item is a fixture in almost every quick service restaurant. With many changes coming to restaurants, has it now been taken off the menu indefinitely?

In almost every quick service restaurant there is one commonality. Whether you grab some fried chicken, a taco or even a burger and fries, everyone needs a drink. As restaurants adapt to the new parameters of dining out, could the self serve soda machine be gone forever?

From quick serve restaurants to movie theaters to even theme parks, that option of choosing and serving your own beverage from a soda machine has been a staple. Whether you want a little ice, a half filled cup or a customized drink, that ability to be in charge of your soda consumption is important to many people. But, given today’s current health crisis, those self serve soda machines could become restaurant relics.

As seen in recent reopening guidelines, some restaurants are opting to omit self serve soda machines. It seems many people are not comfortable putting their cup under a dispenser following another person. Instead, the restaurant worker will serve the soda. Similar to the buffet situation, people want to limit how many people might be touching surfaces.

While the health concerns are valid, it changes a large landscape of the quick service restaurant. Endless refills are a thing of the past. More importantly, soda customization is shelved for the time being.

Who hasn’t gone to a self serve soda machine and created their soda? That perfect combination part cola, part root beer, part lemon lime beverage? While you might have created the exact method of soda parts, no one else can make it just right. Without that self serve soda machine, that unique mix might left unsatisfied for a long time.

If the soda customization is off the table for a while, where does that leave flavor innovations? Sometimes those customized flavors have lead brands to celebrate fans’ uniqueness. Last years Freestyle contest showed how people created their own ultimate mix.

While the self serve soda machine might sit empty for now, it should make its return at some point. Not everyone wants only a handful of beverage choices.

But, there could be one positive out of this quick service restaurant change. If you cannot have unlimited, self serve refills, soda consumption could go down. That idea could make some people happy.

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Do you think self serve soda machine will ever come back? What other changes to quick service restaurants do you think need to happen?