Moscow McDonald’s reopens without golden arches or Big Macs

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There are no arches, golden or not, in the ersatz McDonald’s which opened in Moscow on Sunday. The familiar red and yellow colors are nowhere to be found. It lacks the trademark “M”, and for good reason: McDonald’s in Moscow is no longer McDonald’s.

It’s “Vkusno i Tochka”, which translates to “Tasty and that’s it”.

It’s a play on the old slogan of McDonald’s in Russia, which was “fun and tasty” – a hint, perhaps, “that it won’t be fun anymore”, as blogger Pavel Komarovsky suggested in a tweet.

Here’s what some have called the American fast food chain’s “sanctions edition.”

The franchise is under new Russian ownership, a re-emergence that highlights both the country’s economic agility and its growing isolation in the face of a barrage of sanctions.

“We are so happy that you have come here 32 years after the opening of the flagship McDonald’s, the very first restaurant in Russia,” said the chain’s new owner, Siberian businessman Alexander Govor, speaking to a noticeably smaller crowd than the thousands who flocked to the original opening of McDonald’s at the Pushkin Square site in January 1990.

This event symbolized the thaw of the Cold War between Soviet Russia and the West. This represented a new freezer.

McDonald’s is closing in Russia. His first restaurant in the USSR caused a sensation.

“Life has intervened with its own changes,” Govor said, in an understatement befitting Russia’s refusal to call its invasion of Ukraine an invasion or its war a war.

Russia’s bloody, large-scale attack on Ukraine has left Russia’s once-globalized economy toxic to global corporations, including McDonald’s.

Nearly 1,000 companies have reduced their activities in Russia, according to a database compiled by the Yale School of Management. McDonald’s suspended operations in Russia in mid-March and announced two months later that the war in Ukraine and the unpredictability of running a business in Russia made its presence “no longer tenable” nor “consistent with the values ​​of McDonald’s”.

Exiting the company altogether would have made a dent even in an affluent megacity like Moscow, as McDonald’s revenue accounted for more than 50% of all fast food business in the city.

Instead, McDonald’s sold its business to Govor at a steep discount to its market value, according to its interview with Russian business daily Vedomosti.

“Frankly, we were worried about the fate of the company, the employees and the suppliers; we are talking about tens of thousands of people,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said at the opening ceremony, which coincided with Russia Day, a holiday celebrating the country’s independence. “We helped the channel reconfigure its work as soon as possible and I’m glad it worked out.”

By leaving Russia, McDonald’s dismantles a 30-year relationship

Across the country, 62,000 people will be able to keep their jobs for two years, including top management at McDonald’s, while Vkusno i Tochka plans to gradually renovate around 850 restaurants.

Part of the old McDonald’s has been preserved. The double cheeseburger is still a double cheeseburger.

“It tasted the same,” said a Vkusno i Tochka customer, identified on local state television only as Lyudmila. “Nothing has changed.”

The new fast food will likely be able to retain the original Moscow McDonald’s flavor, as most products have been sourced from Russia for years. But the American company imposed sweeping restrictions on the new owner to distance themselves as much as possible from their successor.

Govor said the chain’s logo now features a burger and two individual fries in green and orange tones that some commentators have compared to that of the Marriott hotel chain.

Some Russian netizens felt that the franchise’s new name reflected the level of authoritarianism in modern Russia. “Any mention of a Big Mac will result in a hefty fine,” scoffed one of the country’s satirical news sites.

The updated menu is much smaller and indeed lacks staple items such as Big Macs and McFlurry due to clear ties to the McDonald’s brand.

Coca-Cola fountains will soon be replaced with new flavors; the company accepts offers from local manufacturers.

“We have stocks of Coca-Cola, which we will use for a while… but sooner or later the stocks will run out. The new Coca-Cola will not be produced in Russia. I’m sure its competitors will produce wonderful flavors,” director Oleg Paroev said before the opening.

Paroev said the company would maintain “affordable prices” but did not rule out an increase in the coming months.

The packaging was also stripped of the golden bows and left mostly white, possibly following a hasty rebranding done in just 22 days. Some food and drink makers in Russia have also struggled to get enough packaging after giants like Tetra Pak exited the market.

A Russian juice company, Sady Pridonya, had to remove most of the design from its boxes, jokingly dubbing the new “A Limited Sanctions Edition” look, as the restrictions imposed on Russia interrupted the supply of “necessary materials, including certain types of cardboard, special varnishes and paints”.

Govor, the new owner, said he wanted to experiment with the menu in the future.

“There are ideas that we have not been able to implement [under the McDonald’s franchise]but now I will insist and turn them into reality,” he told Vedomosti.

“For example, people from different regions have different tastes. People love spices in the Caucasus Mountains and Siberia, but in central Russia they don’t, so we shouldn’t offer them the same things.

The launch presents a big test for the Russian economy. If he succeeds in offering good enough alternatives to Western brands, it could further encourage President Vladimir Putin to think that Russia can go it alone.

The Kremlin has long promoted the concept of import substitution, which so far has yielded poor results, especially when it comes to imports and high-tech industries. Putin last week met with young Russian entrepreneurs to tell them of his public commitment to keeping the national economy going even as his war in Ukraine stalls with no clear end in sight.

“We are not going to have a closed economy,” Putin said. “In Soviet times, when we isolated ourselves, created the so-called Iron Curtain, we created it with our own hands. We will not make the same mistake again: our economy will be open. »

Moscow is betting on other trade routes, including China, India and its Middle Eastern partners, to replace the markets it has lost in the West.

But the question remains open how determined economic powers such as China are to aid Putin’s heavily sanctioned government and risk their own trade relations with the West.

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