A worker dismantles McDonald’s Golden Arches as he removes signage from the logo of a drive-thru restaurant in the city of Kingisepp, in Russia’s Leningrad region, Thursday. Sunday marks a new dawn as former McDonald’s restaurants in Russia reopen under new branding and ownership. (Anton Vaganov, Reuters)
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MOSCOW – Sunday marks a new dawn for Russia’s fast-food lovers as former McDonald’s restaurants reopen under new branding and ownership, more than three decades after the arrival of the hugely popular Western fast-food chain.
The relaunch will begin on Russia Day, a patriotic holiday that celebrates the country’s independence, at the same iconic location on Moscow’s Pushkin Square, where McDonald’s first opened in Russia in January 1990.
In the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, McDonald’s came to embody a thaw from Cold War tensions and was a vehicle for millions of Russians to experience American food and culture. The brand’s departure is now a powerful symbol of how Russia and the West are once again turning their backs on each other.
McDonald’s said last month it was selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, Alexander Govor. The deal marked one of the most important business outings since Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24.
McDonald’s iconic “Golden Arches” have been taken down at locations in Moscow and St. The reopening will initially cover 15 locations in Moscow and the surrounding region.
The name of the new network remains a closely guarded secret. A change in the name of the McDonald’s app on Friday to ‘My Burger’ generated some excitement online, but the chain’s press team said this was only temporary, the daily RBC reported.
A motto on the app’s homepage read: “Some things are changing, but stable work is here to stay.”
Russian media, citing leaked footage of the new menu, reported the renaming of dishes such as Filet-O-Fish to ‘Fish Burger’ and Chicken McNuggets to simply ‘Nuggets’. Reuters was unable to 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 may be some headwinds.
It takes decades to build a brand, said Peter Gabrielsson, professor of International Marketing at the University of Vaasa in Finland, and the new launch is crucial to the brand’s future success.
“Opening day is important because it’s the first time consumers can really feel, touch and see the brand and what it stands for,” he said. “It’s important what the reaction is and obviously people are going to compare it to McDonald’s.”
It matters what the reaction will be and obviously people will compare it to McDonald’s.
–Peter Gabrielsson, Vaasa University of Finland
McDonald’s, the world’s largest hamburger chain, owned 84% of its nearly 850 restaurants across Russia and took on a charge of up to $1.4 billion after the sale to Govor, whose GiD LLC had previously managed 25 restaurants. .
McDonald’s Russia’s Oleg Paroev said that other franchisees would have the option to work under the new brand, but McDonald’s traditional brand will leave the country. McDonald’s said it will keep its trademarks.
Last year, McDonald’s generated about 9%, or $2 billion, of its revenue in Russia and Ukraine. McDonald’s has the right to buy its restaurants in Russia within 15 years, but many terms of the sale to Govor remain unclear.
TASS news agency said on Wednesday that McDonald’s will 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 US corporation cannot take away the franchise. They can operate in peace,” the source told TASS.
Rosinter declined to comment. McDonald’s did not immediately respond.