Secret code behind the buttons on McDonald's drink lids explained

A general picture of a McDonald's drink
The buttons on top of McDonald's drink lids have a specific purpose (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images) -Credit:Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If you make a large order at McDonald's, chances are that some of the lids will have their buttons pressed in.

It's not a random act and they have a very specific function but that hasn't stopped some fast food fans wondering. It comes in handy if you're faced with a tray of drinks that all look the same.

The buttons are designed to help tell the difference between drinks like Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero - without diners having to taste test them all first.

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The cold drink lids feature buttons marked 'Diet/Light', 'No Caff', '1', and '2'. McDonald's employees will typically press one button to signal the drink is Diet Coke and at least two buttons will be pressed down to make it clear that the drink is Coke Zero.

The same button system is also used for the hot McCafé drinks - so you don't have to pop open the lids and risk a possible spillage.

The buttons should be pressed for Sprite, Fanta and Oasis options - which are all sugar-free on the UK menu but the system is most effective for the three types of Coca-Cola that, at a glance, all look identical but the wrong option could spell disaster for someone who needs to monitor their sugar intake like diabetics.

Workers have previously shared this information on social media platforms when customers raise the question out of both curiosity or confusion. A Reddit thread had several employees sharing the procedure.

One explained: "Seems to be different for every store but we usually just push 1 random button for Diet Coke and then either 2 random or all four buttons for Coke Zero. It's just faster to push random buttons than spend the time to actually find the diet button on every lid I guess."

Another worker clarified the official stance, and said: "Procedure is anyone for diet and two next to each other for zero."

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