McDonald’s has long been known for its Dollar Menu promotions, offering customers affordable food and drink options. The 99 cent drink promotion in particular has been a staple deal at McDonald’s for over a decade. However, recent reports indicate this iconic promotion may be going away at some locations due to rising costs.
As of 2022, McDonald’s no longer consistently offers 99 cent drinks due to increasing costs related to labour, ingredients, and transportation. The corporation has started to allow individual franchisees the option to stop advertising this promotion, shifting instead to promote value meal options. Therefore, while some select stores may continue to offer drinks at this price, the consistent nationwide 99 cent drink promotion is no longer guaranteed at all McDonald’s locations.
A Deep Dive into McDonald’s 99 Cent Drink Offerings
McDonald’s 99 cent drink menu features a variety of cold beverage options including:
- Soft drinks like Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Fanta
- Iced tea
- Fruit drinks like Hi-C Orange and Minute Maid juice
- Dasani bottled water
- McCafé frappes and smoothies
McDonald’s has confirmed that all drink sizes are included in the 99 cent promotion, meaning you can get small, medium, or large cold drinks for just 99 cents. This makes it an extremely popular deal, as customers can get a large soft drink or iced tea for under a dollar.
The 99 cent promotion is typically offered year-round nationwide, unlike other Dollar Menu deals that may be regional or seasonal. McDonald’s first launched it as a summer promotion around 2008, before expanding it to the full year in 2017.
The Origins and Evolution of McDonald’s Value Menu
McDonald’s has always emphasized value and affordability as part of its brand identity. The first national value menu debuted in 2002 with the “Dollar Menu” offering a variety of food items for just $1 each.
This was a hit with recession-weary customers seeking budget meals. Over the years McDonald’s expanded the value menu:
- 2003: Added snacks like baked apple pies and ice cream cones for 99 cents
- 2007: Launched the Dollar Menu & More with additional items up to $2
- 2013: Renamed it the Dollar Menu & More
The 99 cent drink promotion joined the national value menu around 2008, and has remained a constant fixture while food items rotated.
Why the 99 Cent Drink May Be Going Away
In 2022, McDonald’s corporate started allowing franchisees to move away from 99 cent drink advertising to promote value meals instead. This is in response to rising labor, ingredients, and transportation costs making it difficult to profit from the deal.
A few key stats about the changing economics behind the 99 cent drink:
- Consumer prices are up 8.6% in May 2022 vs. a year ago, the highest inflation rate since 1981.
- In Q1 2022 earnings, McDonald’s cited inflationary pressures and limited ability to increase prices.
- McDonald’s boosted wages, with average hourly wages rising to $15 per hour at corporate-owned stores.
- In 16 out of 56 regions, co-ops have voted to promote value meals instead of 99 cent drinks.
- Some stores have quietly raised drink prices, while others have kept 99 cent drinks.
This means customers may start seeing fewer advertisements for 99 cent drinks, or find their local McDonald’s is no longer honoring the promotion.
Customer Reactions to Losing the 99 Cent Drink
The potential end of the 99 cent drink promotion has elicited mixed reactions from McDonald’s fans:
- Disappointment: Many loyal customers are dismayed to lose a popular, decade-long promotion. For some who visit regularly, bumping up drink prices subtracts value.
- Acceptance: Some customers recognize McDonald’s needs to raise prices with inflation, and chains can’t keep deals forever. There is hope prices may drop again when costs normalize.
- Indifference: Younger and more affluent customers may not care if drink prices rise slightly. Value meals are still seen as a good deal.
On social media, many have expressed nostalgia and sadness over potentially losing “the best thing on the dollar menu”. Time will tell if customer dismay impacts sales or store visits.
Strategies to Still Save Money on Drinks at McDonald’s
While the 99 cent promotion may be disappearing, there are still ways to get discounted drinks at McDonald’s:
- Go small: Ordering a small vs. medium or large drink still saves money.
- Stick to value meals: Pairing a drink with a value meal combo can lower the total cost.
- Use coupons: Check McDonald’s app for deals and freebies with purchase.
- Order water: Free water cups are still available.
- Share a drink: Split a large drink between multiple people to save.
- Refill online orders: In-store refills are free for drinks ordered online/in app.
Healthier 99 Cent Drink Options at McDonald’s
Along with sugary sodas, McDonald’s 99 cent drink menu does feature some healthier beverage choices:
- Iced tea: Unsweetened, 0 calories.
- Dasani water: 0 calories.
- Minute Maid Light Lemonade: 90 calories.
- Honest Kids Organic Apple Juice: 70 calories.
- 1% Low fat milk: 120 calories.
- McCafé Smoothies: 140-260 calories.
Choosing calorie-free options like water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee can provide hydration without added sugars. Smoothies and juice also offer nutrients.
The Future of Value at McDonald’s
While beloved promotions may be disappearing, McDonald’s states value remains an important part of its marketing strategy. Franchisees still have flexibility to run local deals to drive demand.
Some possibilities for future value offerings include:
- Reduced prices on slow days like Tuesday and Wednesday
- Loyalty program rewards and app deals
- Bundled mix-and-match meal deals
- Limited-time discounts on seasonal items
Affordability has been central to McDonald’s identity for decades. They will likely continue innovating on value even as prices rise, though the days of 99 cent drinks all day, every day may be numbered.