A new day has dawned for Russia’s fast-food lovers, with former McDonald’s restaurants set to reopen under new branding and ownership, more than three decades after their arrival.
- McDonald’s has been hugely popular in Russia since the early 1990s
- The international fast-food chain is among many Western firms exiting Russia over the invasion of Ukraine
- Former McDonald’s restaurants will reopen under new ownership with with a new name and branding
The relaunch is slated to 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 first opened in the country in January 1990.
As the Soviet Union crumbled, McDonald’s came to embody a thawing of Cold War tensions, and it was a vehicle for millions of Russians to sample American food and culture.
The brand’s exit is now a powerful symbol of how Russia and the West are once again turning their backs on each other.
McDonald’s last month said it was selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, Alexander Govor. The deal marks one of the most high-profile business departures since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
McDonald’s iconic golden arches have been taken down at sites across Moscow and St Petersburg, where they will make way for a new logo comprising two chips and a hamburger patty against a green background. The reopening will initially cover 15 locations in Moscow and the surrounding region.
The new chain’s name remains a closely guarded secret. A change in the name of the McDonald’s app on Friday to My Burger generated some online excitement, but the chain’s press team said this was only temporary.
A motto on the app’s home page read: “Some things are changing, but stable work is here to stay.”
Russian media, citing leaked images of the new menu, have reported the renaming of dishes such as the filet-o-fish to fish burger and chicken Mcnuggets to simply nuggets.
Will Russians continue ‘lovin it’?
The new owner of the former McDonald’s assets has said he plans to expand the new brand to 1,000 locations across the country, reopening all the chain’s restaurants within two months. But there may be some headwinds.
Peter Gabrielsson, a professor of international marketing at Finland’s University of Vaasa, said it took decades to build a brand, and the new launch would be crucial for the new chain’s future success.
“Opening day is important because it is the first time consumers can really feel and touch and see the brand and what it stands for,” he said.
“It’s important what the reaction will be, and obviously people will be comparing it to McDonald’s.”
McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, had owned 84 per cent of its nearly 850 restaurants across Russia.
Oleg Paroev of McDonald’s Russia has said other franchisees will have the option of working under the new brand, but the traditional McDonald’s brand will leave the country. McDonald’s has said it will retain its trademarks.
McDonald’s last year generated about 9 per cent of its revenue from Russia and Ukraine. McDonald’s has the right to buy its Russia restaurants back within 15 years, but many terms of the sale remain unclear.
Russian news agencies reported McDonald’s would stay open as usual at airports and train stations in Moscow and St Petersburg until 2023, quoting a source close to another franchisee.