A typical casual-dining restaurant may have a dozen or more soft drinks on the menu, but the Firehouse Subs chain has 10 times that selection, thanks to its Coca-Cola Freestyle machines. These drink dispensers pack in more than 120 variations—all in the same space allotted to traditional eight-valve fountains.
First rolled out at Firehouse Subs in 2009, Coca-Cola Freestyle is now available in all 550 locations of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based chain. Selection options include popular brands such as Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Dasani, Barq’s and Powerade, but you can also try flavors not readily available in the United States, such as Fanta Peach or Minute Maid Light Orange Lemonade. Firehouse Subs’ original Cherry Lime-Aid is also dispensed from the machines, making the chain the first to feature its signature drink on Coca-Cola Freestyle.
Coca-Cola Freestyle 101
If you aren’t familiar with Freestyle, here are the basics of this high-tech soda fountain.
Stocking the Ingredients: The Freestyle machine contains cartridges filled with the concentrated ingredients you’ll need to create both sparkling and flat drinks.
Selecting a Beverage: After pushing your cup against the lever to fill it with ice, you choose a drink from the touch screen. You can select original Coca-Cola Zero or try one of seven custom flavor options, including Lemon Coke Zero, Orange Coke Zero and Raspberry Coke Zero, to make a new favorite concoction.
Creating the Drink: The ingredients mix with water and sweetener as it dispenses from the machine. Syrup is no longer required to make the beverages.
The Early Days at Firehouse Subs
The Coca-Cola Freestyle and Firehouse Subs partnership started in 2009 as a trial in the restaurant chain’s Atlanta store. "The first time we saw Coca-Cola Freestyle, we knew it would revolutionize the beverage industry and we welcomed a test with our partners at Coca-Cola," said Robin Sorensen, co-founder of Firehouse Subs. "Customers rave about Coca-Cola Freestyle, and it has led to a substantial increase in beverage sales. We're pumped to be the first national chain on the planet to bring the fountain of the future to all of our loyal customers."
Soda-Fountain Fun Facts
Coca-Cola Freestyle may be revolutionizing the soda fountain, but fizzy drinks have a long history in the United States. Here are just a few interesting facts about soda’s history—and future.
Carbonation Origination: Dr. Joseph Priestly, a friend of Benjamin Franklin, is attributed with creating the first drinkable man-made glass of carbonated water in 1767. The term ‘soda water’ wasn’t coined until 1798.
The Soda Fountain/Drugstore Connection: Soda fountains gained popularity in the United States after the Civil War as community gathering places. Early soda fountains were located primarily in drugstores because the carbonated water was created by chemists and marketed as having medicinal benefits.
The Original Soda Elixir: The syrup for Coca-Cola was first created by Dr. John Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, on May 8, 1886. The syrup was blended with carbonated water to create Coca-Cola.
More Options Than Ever: Today, Coca-Cola Freestyle offers 120-plus beverage selections, including more than 70 diet and low-calorie beverages and more than 90 caffeine-free drinks.
Award-Winning Design: The Freestyle machine won the 2011 Good Design Award for Industrial Design given by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
Finding a Freestyle Machine Near You
If you haven’t tried it yet, there is likely a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine near you; they are available at more than 4,000 locations nationwide. Find a dispenser at these Firehouse Subs locations or check out the Coca-Cola Freestyle website for other retail outlets. For more information, go to the Freestyle Facebook page or download the iPhone and Android game apps.