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Why soft drinks are huge profits for fast food restaurants

“Coke with your meal?” That is the question that servers at fast food restaurants usually ask when a customer makes an order for a McDonald’s Big Mac or Burger King Whopper combo. Enjoying a soda with a meal has become quite a custom for many patrons of fast food outlets.

As some chains in the United States and Canada provide unlimited amounts of soda through the means of fountain drinks and others provide choices of a small, medium large or supersize cup with free refills, these companies continue to see the success of their soft drinks sales.

According to a report from, side beverages and coffee drinks account for 34 percent of earnings for these restaurants. It isn’t difficult to see why, though, considering how there are 33 side beverages to choose from at McDonald’s and 112 others at Sonic.

There isn’t a lot of data out there to see how much fast food chains are making off of selling soda to customers. But to get a sense of how much they’re really earning, one must use calculations and the average price at grocery stores.

Yahoo! News reported in October of last year of how much it costs for companies to buy and sell fast food soda:

“A fast food soda (18 oz) that sells for $1.99 costs the restaurant about $0.16, a markup of more than 1250 %. The fast food soda costs $0.11 an ounce. Compare that to bulk purchase of canned soda. A 12-pack of canned soda on sale is $3.00, or $0.25 a can, or $0.02 an ounce.”

That’s a lot profit for companies to earn.

Not only do fast food customers consume a lot of soda, the companies are adapting to the market and offering its patrons all these different sizes. The average “medium” size at a McDonald’s, Subway or Wendy’s is about 21 ounces – 32 ounces at Burger King – and the average “extra large” varies between 40 ounces (Taco Bell) and 64 ounces (Burger King).

Children tend to enjoy the sweet taste of Coca Cola, Pepsi or 7-Up and as a significant number of parents continue to be passive about their child’s diet, the youth demographic makes a good chunk of beverage sales. The aforementioned study found that 29 percent of preschoolers under the age of six and 43 percent of those between six and 17 have ordered both soft drinks and fries during their two most frequent visits.

This isn’t the end of the line. In Canada, McDonald’s advertised $1 drinks (any size) for the entire summer, including coffee. Also, the same company offers free coffee (any size) for one month of the year.

With other establishments attempting to capture the specialty drinks market a la Starbucks, places such as McDonald’s will promote various coffee beverages that will certainly be just as cheap to make and just as accustomed for visitors.

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