Does McDonald’s Still Have 99 cent Drinks?

McDonald’s has long been known for its Dollar Menu, offering customers a variety of food and drink items for just $1 each. The ultra-affordable value menu has been a huge draw for budget-conscious customers looking to grab a quick meal on the cheap.

However, even McDonald’s beloved Dollar Menu couldn’t escape the effects of inflation forever.

Does McDonald’s still have 99 cent drinks? As of 2022, McDonald’s no longer universally offers 99 cent, or dollar drinks due to increasing costs and inflation. Some franchise owners have chosen to entirely abandon the dollar drink promotion while others still offer it.

However, the company continues to focus on providing value to customers, offering other discounted drink options via coupons, deals on the McDonald’s app, and value meals.

The End of Dollar Drinks?

One of the most popular Dollar Menu items over the years has been McDonald’s $1 drinks promotion. Since around 2008, customers could order sodas, lemonade, coffee, tea, and other cold beverages in small, medium or large sizes for just $1 each. The summertime promotion eventually became a year-round Dollar Drink deal starting in 2017. 

However, in January 2022 McDonald’s gave franchise owners permission to drop the $1 drink promotion in the face of rising costs. By May, outlets in 16 out of 56 US markets had shifted focus to promote McDonald’s value meals instead of the Dollar Drinks. Some owners have abandoned the $1 drinks completely, opting to raise soda prices. 

While the majority of McDonald’s locations still offer $1 cold drinks, the changes represent a major shift for the fast food giant. The end of $1 drinks spells bad news for customers who have come to rely on McDonald’s as a source of cheap, affordable drinks on the go.

Why Did McDonald’s Ditch Dollar Drinks?

The decision to move away from $1 cold drinks was driven by surging inflation hitting McDonald’s bottom line. Prices for ingredients, packaging, transportation, labor and other costs have risen steadily over the past couple years. 

Despite price increases on food items, McDonald’s said inflation was still outpacing sales growth at company-owned stores. Franchise owners likely faced similar cost pressures that made $1 drinks unsustainable.

Raising drink prices above $1 provides franchisees with much-needed revenue to help offset higher operating costs. Some view it as an opportunistic price hike at a time when customers expect higher prices everywhere. However, abandoning a wildly popular promotion like Dollar Drinks was likely a last resort rather than an easy decision.

Customer Reactions: Outrage and Acceptance

Die-hard McDonald’s customers have reacted with a mix of disappointment, frustration and resignation to the end of $1 drinks. 

“I hope the price change is temporary and it would go back to how it was soon,” said Damien Munoz of Naperville, Illinois.

But other customers seemed to accept the higher prices as a sign of the times.

“Everything is more expensive now, so it’s not too surprising drinks at McDonald’s cost more,” said Carrie Stevens of Flint, Michigan. “I’ll still go to McDonald’s just as often, I’ll just buy a smaller drink.”

The majority of customers acknowledge that blaming McDonald’s for the price hikes is misguided when inflation is rampant everywhere. Most restaurants and retailers have had to raise prices significantly in 2022. Compared to $7 lattes at Starbucks or $15 cocktails at bars, slightly pricier sodas at McDonald’s are still a relative bargain.

The Value Strategy

Despite phasing out Dollar Drinks, McDonald’s maintains that value remains a key focus of its marketing strategy. The fast food leader has built its empire on no-frills food at low prices. 

McDonald’s still offers customers many ways to save, including:

  • Value meals – combo meals allow customers to upgrade drink and fry sizes at a discounted bundled price
  • Happy Meal – kid-sized burgers, nuggets and more paired with drinks and toys for $3-5 
  • Coupons and app deals – offers like BOGO sandwiches, free fries with purchase, and $1 McCafe drinks
  • $1-$2 menu – remains intact with burgers, chicken sandwiches, cones, McChicken and more

The company wants customers to know it still offers a compelling value proposition overall, even if Dollar Drinks are fading away. McDonald’s remains committed to its image of affordable, cost-conscious fast food.

The Dollar Drink Menu Items

Over the years, customers could order the following $1 drink items at McDonald’s:

  • Fountain drinks – Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Hi-C, Powerade, Minute Maid
  • Sweet tea
  • Unsweetened iced tea
  • Coffee – hot or iced
  • McCafe drinks – mocha, latte, frappe, smoothie
  • Shakes – chocolate, strawberry, vanilla
  • Sodas – Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta
  • Juice – orange, apple
  • Milk
  • Dasani water
  • Minute Maid lemonade

The wide range of $1 drink choices was a huge bonus for customers. Paying just $1 for large cold drinks that cost $3 or more elsewhere was seen as a great perk.

Drink TypeExamples
Fountain drinksCoke, Sprite, Hi-C, Powerade
Hot coffeeRegular, decaf
Iced/frozen drinksSmoothies, frappes, iced coffee
JuiceOrange, apple
MilkWhole, 2%, skim
WaterDasani, bottled water

While Dollar Drinks offered great variety and customization, some health experts argued that the promotion encouraged consumption of unhealthy sugary beverages that contribute to obesity and diabetes. 

Healthier Dollar Drink Alternatives

For customers focused on healthy choices, McDonald’s Dollar Drink menu wasn’t too limiting. Those looking to avoid sugary sodas and juices could order:

  • Water – Saving money on bottled water was a bonus.
  • Iced tea – Unsweetened tea has zero calories. 
  • Coffee – Caffeine without calories or sugar.
  • Milk – Provides calcium, protein and Vitamin D.
  • Diet soft drinks – No calories or sugar.

Making healthier drink choices is even easier now that McDonald’s no longer limits size options for $1 drinks. Customers can feel good ordering a small water, diet soda or coffee for just $1 knowing they aren’t overconsuming empty calories.

The Future of McDonald’s Drink Deals

While the $1 drink promotion now seems to be fading fast, customers may still find new cheap drink options on the McDonald’s menu in the future. Here are some possibilities we may see:

  • $1 small or medium drinks only – Keeping just the smaller sizes at $1 could be a solid compromise.
  • $1 drink refills – Free refills are already offered at some locations.
  • $1 drink add-ons – Dropping the price when drinks are bundled with food. 
  • $1 drink coupons – App deals and mailed coupons for $1 drinks to loyal customers.
  • $1 drink happy hour – Only certain times of day like breakfast or late-night.
  • $1 self-serve drinks – Cut costs by having customers fill their own cups.
  • $1 drink bots – Automated machines could dispense $1 drinks without staff.

McDonald’s has thrived by adapting to offer customers what they want. With demand still high for ultra-cheap drinks, McDonald’s has an incentive to innovate new ways to quench our thirst for beverage bargains.

The Bottom Line

The era of McDonald’s Dollar Drinks may be ending as surging costs make the popular promotion unsustainable. But value-focused customers need not despair. With its strong brand, economies of scale, and continued focus on affordability, McDonald’s is likely to keep offering compelling deals and prices compared to competitors.

McDonald’s devoted fan base has come to depend on the chain for reliably cheap, convenient, tasty food and drinks over the decades. As an iconic leader in fast food value, McDonald’s is well-positioned to navigate inflationary challenges while still delivering maximum bang for your buck.

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