McDonald’s announced that will leave Russia permanently. After suspending operations on March 8 due to the war in Ukraine, the fast food giant revealed that leaving for humanitarian reasons. The company confirmed that it has begun the process of selling all of its restaurants to a local buyer.
McDonald’s decision could go unnoticed knowing that most Western companies have left Russia. The important thing here is that the company leaves the country and with it takes its iconic golden archesthose that once meant the end of the Cold War and a first rapprochement between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
“The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the precipitous unpredictable operating environment have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable or consistent with McDonald’s values.” a press release.
The company announced that will dismantle all restaurants and stop using the McDonald’s name, logo, brand and menu. The exit from Russia implies that more than 62,000 people will lose their jobs, although the company guaranteed that they will continue to be paid until the sale to the possible buyer is completed.
For now it is unknown who could acquire the more than 847 restaurants in the country, although it is possible that the government of Vladimir Putin will take the reins.
Goodbye McDonalds, hello Uncle Vanya
After confirming that McDonald’s would suspend operations in the country, Russia did not take long to create a similar version. In accordance with Chicago Tribune, the Government registered the trademark Uncla Vanya (Uncle Vanya) with a somewhat familiar logo. The creative department of the Kremlin thought that it was a good idea to keep the iconic golden archonly rotated 90 degrees and inspired by the Cyrillic B.
Although McDonald’s confirmed that it will continue to retain its trademarks in Russia, nothing would prevent the government from proposing a “similar”. According to the news network interfaceSergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, suggested in March that the 250 branches of the American chain would be replaced by local restaurants.
Sobyanin gave a maximum period of one year before replacing all McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow. “The best thing is that food products will be supplied 99% by Russian suppliers,” he said. The mayor declared that the new restaurants would hire McDonald’s staff, a strategy that would be replicated by other food chains that were planning to close their doors.
Following the departure of companies, Russia announced its intentions to nationalize the businesses and transfer the operation to companies that want to work. Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma, suggested doing the same with fast food chains. “They announced that they are closing. Well, okay, close up. But tomorrow in those places we should not have McDonald’s, but Uncle Vanya’s“, he claimed.
“If you can’t go to America, come to McDonald’s in Moscow”
McDonald’s opened his first restaurant in Moscow in 1990. After 12 years of negotiations, the Communist Party authorized the American company to build its first branch in Pushkin Square. Despite the low temperatures, more than 5,000 people gathered on Gorky Street (today Tverskaya) to enjoy the Bolshoi Mak (Big Mac).
The restaurant had more than 600 seats inside and 200 outside. During its opening, McDonald’s set a record by serving more than 30,000 people. According to Washington Post, a Bolshoi Mak cost 3.85 rubles, equivalent to two and a half hours of work in the USSR from 1990.
“If you can’t go to the United States, come to McDonald’s in Moscow,” was the slogan the chain used to promote its first restaurant in the Soviet Union. To the people they didn’t mind standing in line for more than six hours. “We queue for hours, sometimes days. We are used to this,” said Viktor Kondratyev, a trade cooperative worker who attended the opening.
“We came here because we thought it would be an unforgettable experience,” said Lena Kalashova, who days earlier lost her job at the Ministry of Agriculture. “This place looks different from the outside. Everything looks clean and bright,” said Gena Popov, a mechanic who said finding a decent place to eat was one of his biggest problems.
Old school Soviet politicians did not welcome the arrival of McDonald’s. After all, he represented the culture they had repelled for decades. Stanislav Kondrashov, a famous journalist from the daily Izvestia, anticipated that company executives would abandon the project. “The managers will be evacuated from the roof of the cafeteria,” the columnist assured.
Despite Kondrashov’s prognosis, McDonald’s remained for more than 30 years in Russia. It was not necessary to evacuate the executives from a helicopter. An invasion and a wave of economic sanctions against the government of Vladimir Putin were enough for them to leave the country and close a historic chapter.