Russians lined up in a Moscow train station on Tuesday for what may be their last Big Mac from one of the few McDonald’s restaurants still open in the country.
The world’s largest hamburger chain is rolling out its shutters in Russia after more than 30 years and becoming one of the biggest world brands to leave following Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
McDonald’s retirement ends a chapter in American company history that began when he began serving his burgers in Russia as a symbol of American capitalism.
The company already decided in March to temporarily close its restaurants in the country. They included the iconic Pushkin Square location in central Moscow, which broke world records when it opened on January 31, 1990, as more than 30,000 people lined up around the block for Big Macs costing 3 rubles.
“McDonald’s now works in few places,” says 32-year-old Irina, who was queuing at the branch in Moscow’s Leningradsky station, from where trains run north to St Petersburg. “I miss McDonald’s, so when I go to St. Petersburg, I peek in and spoil myself with a Big Mac.”
McDonald’s plans to sell 84% of its nearly 850 restaurants in Russia to a local buyer. The future of the remaining restaurants, which are run by franchisees, is unclear.
The new owners will not be allowed to use McDonald’s name, logo, trademark and menu. This worried some Russians that the quality would suffer.
“I read yesterday that McDonald’s is closing soon and opening under a new name, so I hurried here today to buy my favorite cheeseburger, milkshake and chips,” said Alla (21). “What if the quality gets worse after the trademark?”
The franchise restaurants remain open and have seen an increase in business since McDonald’s closed its outlets.
“In accessible locations in downtown Moscow and St. Petersburg, we are seeing increased demand,” franchisee Rosinter Restaurants said Tuesday.
McDonald’s will retain its brand in Russia, which analysts say has left the door open for a return. Meanwhile, restaurants will begin reopening in June under new ownership and brands, a source close to the company said.
RY 250KM FOR MCDONALD’S
In southern Russia and Siberia, some franchise outlets are still trading.
One man from southern Russia drove for two and a half hours to find an open restaurant, he said in an online review posted on Yandex on April 21.
“I came to these McDonalds especially from Samara, only 250 km,” the user wrote. “I remembered the atmosphere and happily dived into it.
“The food and burgers are just as delicious and fragrant,” he said. “Thank you for being relatively close.”
The civilian chain symbolizes a thawing of Cold War tensions and was a way for millions of Soviet citizens to taste Western food and culture, even though the cost of a civilian was several times greater than the daily budgets of many urbanites.
In the last few years, McDonald’s has become one of the most affordable and fastest lunch options in Russia. Based on The Economist magazine’s Big Mac index, which shows purchasing power parity, the ruble was the most undervalued currency in early February 2022.
“Standing in a queue for a while is nothing to be afraid of, if one remembers how long we stood in the 90s,” says Ivan Tumanov (45), who also waited in line at Leningradsky station. “Let’s remind ourselves today of a foretaste. Of the West.”
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