Sunday marks a new dawn for Russia’s fast-food lovers as former McDonald’s Corp 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 celebrating the country’s independence, at the same flagship location in Moscow’s Pushkin Square where McDonald’s first opened in Russia in January 1990.
In the early 1990s, as the Soviet Union crumbled, McDonald’s came to embody a thawing of Cold War tensions and was a vehicle for millions of Russians to sample American food and culture. The brand’s exit is now a powerful symbol of how Russia and the West are once again turning their backs on each other.
McDonald’s last month said it was selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, Alexander Govor. The deal marked one of the most high-profile business departures since Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24.
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 comprising two fries and a hamburger patty against a green background. The reopening will initially cover 15 locations in Moscow and the surrounding region.
Govor has said he plans to expand the new brand, which has yet to be named, to 1,000 locations across the country and reopen all 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 Finland’s University of Vaasa, and the new launch is crucial for the brand’s future success.
“Opening day is important because it is the first time consumers can really feel and touch and see the brand and what it stands for,” he said. “It’s important what the reaction will be and obviously people will be comparing it to McDonald’s.
”McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, had owned 84% of its nearly 850 restaurants across Russia and it took a charge of up to $1.4 billion following the sale to Govor, whose GiD LLC had previously run 25 restaurants. (SABC)