Sunday marks a new dawn for Russian fast food lovers as the former McDonald’s Corp restaurants reopen under a new brand and new ownership, more than three decades after the hugely popular Western fast food chain arrived.
The revival will begin on Russia Day, a patriotic holiday celebrating the country’s independence, at the same flagship location in Moscow‘s Pushkin Square where McDonald’s opened in Russia in January 1990.
A worker dismantles the golden arches of McDonald’s while removing logo signage from a McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant in the town of Kingisepp in the Leningrad region of Russia on June 8. PHOTO: Reuters/Anton Vaganov
In the early 1990s, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, McDonald’s came to embody a thaw in Cold War tensions and provided millions of Russians with a taste of American cuisine and culture. The release of the brand is now a strong symbol of how Russia and the West are once again turning their backs on each other.
McDonald’s announced last month that it was selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, Alexander Govor. The deal marked one of the highest-profile trade departures since Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24.
McDonald’s iconic ‘Golden Arches’ have been dismantled at sites in Moscow and St Petersburg, where they will make way for a new logo featuring two fries and a hamburger patty on a green background. The reopening will initially cover 15 locations in Moscow and the surrounding region.
The name of the new channel remains a closely guarded secret. Friday’s renaming of the McDonald’s app to “My Burger” sparked some excitement online, but the chain’s press team said it was only temporary, the RBC daily reported.
A motto on the app’s homepage read, “Some things change, but steady work is here to stay.”
Russian media, citing leaked images of the new menu, reported the renaming of dishes such as Filet-O-Fish to “Fish Burger” and Chicken McNuggets to simply “Nuggets”. Reuters could not verify the changes.
Govor said he plans to expand the new brand to 1,000 locations across the country and reopen all of the chain’s restaurants within two months. But there can be headwinds.
It takes decades to build a brand, said Peter Gabrielsson, a professor of international marketing at Finland’s University of Vaasa, and the new launch is crucial for the brand’s future success.
“Opening day is important because it’s the first time consumers can really smell, touch and see the brand and what it stands for,” he said. “It’s important to know what the reaction will be and obviously people will compare it to McDonald’s.”
A burger and two potato fries feature in the logo of a new restaurant chain, following McDonald’s Corp’s decision to sell its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees who will rebrand them under a new name name, in this image from the document released June 9. PHOTO: Document via Reuters.
McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, owned 84% of its nearly 850 restaurants across Russia and took on up to $1.4 billion from the sale to Govor, which GiD LLC previously operated 25 restaurants.
Oleg Paroev of McDonald’s Russia said other franchisees would have the option of working under the new brand, but the traditional McDonald’s brand will leave the country. McDonald’s said it would keep its brands.
Last year, McDonald’s generated about 9%, or $2 billion, of its revenue from Russia and Ukraine. McDonald’s has the right to buy its Russian restaurants within 15 years, but many terms of sale in Govor remain unclear.
TASS news agency said on Wednesday that McDonald’s would remain open as usual at airports and train stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg until 2023, citing a source close to Rosinter Restaurants, another franchisee.
“Rosinter has a unique agreement under which the American company cannot withdraw the franchise. They can operate in peace,” the source quoted by TASS said.
Rosinter declined to comment. McDonald’s did not immediately respond.