A new day has dawned for Russian fast-food lovers, with the reopening of former McDonald’s restaurants under a new brand and new ownership, more than three decades after their arrival.
- McDonald’s has been extremely popular in Russia since the early 1990s
- The international fast-food chain is among many Western companies leaving Russia following the invasion of Ukraine
- Former McDonald’s restaurants will reopen under new ownership with a new name and branding
The revival is set 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 opened in the country in January 1990.
As the Soviet Union crumbled, McDonald’s came to embody a thaw in Cold War tensions, and it was a vehicle for millions of Russians to sample American food 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 marks one of the most high-profile trade departures since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
McDonald’s iconic golden arches have been taken down at sites in Moscow and St Petersburg, where they will make way for a new logo featuring two fries and a burger 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.
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 simple nuggets.
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The new owner of the former McDonald’s assets said he plans to expand the new brand to 1,000 locations across the country, reopening all of the chain’s restaurants within two months. But there can be headwinds.
Peter Gabrielsson, professor of international marketing at Finland’s University of Vaasa, said it takes decades to build a brand and the new launch will be crucial for the new channel’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.”
McDonald’s, the world’s largest hamburger chain, owned 84% of its nearly 850 restaurants across Russia.
Oleg Paroev of McDonald’s Russia said other franchisees will be able to work 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 around 9% 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 remain unclear.
Russian news agencies said McDonald’s would remain open as usual at airports and train stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg until 2023, citing a source close to another franchisee.
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