Former McDonald’s restaurants in the Russian capital have reopened under a new name, Vkusno & tochka (“Tasty and that’s it”), in a rebranding intended to comfort Russians that they can continue to live western lifestyles – even if Big Macs are gone from the menu.
McDonald’s announced its exit from the Russian market in May, saying it would sell its 850 restaurants due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It joined an exodus of western businesses from the Russian market amid sanctions and serious shortages in some sectors.
On Sunday, the new Russian fast-food chain that bought out McDonald’s, opened its first 15 restaurants in Moscow. Vkusno & tochka plans to eventually reopen all 850.
At a grand opening on Moscow’s Pushkin Square, the restaurant appeared to be an intentional copy of the American chain. Fish burgers, chicken nuggets and double cheeseburgers were all on the menu. “Our goal is that our guests do not notice a difference either in quality or ambience,” said Oleg Paroev, chief executive of Vkusno & tochka. The restaurant served old packets of McDonald’s hot mustard sauce marked up to erase any reference to the fast-food chain.
The new name was an appeal to the nostalgia of many Russians, who have become accustomed to western goods and brands, even as the Kremlin has decried the influence of the west. “The name changes, the love remains,” read the new restaurant’s slogan. Slogans sewn on the employees’ uniforms said: “The same smiles.”
It was the employees’ smiles that many Russians remembered from 32 years ago when the first McDonalds’ opened on Pushkin Square in 1990, heralding an influx of western goods and services into the closed Soviet economy. More than 30,000 Soviet customers queued for hours in the cold to try their first hamburger or Coke.
Now, Vkusno & tochka’s opening marks a new trend toward isolation, as Russia’s war has left tens of thousands dead and its market has become untouchable for some of the world’s largest multinationals.
The name has been met with bemusement and some mockery. “It’s a bit specific but … interesting,” one Muscovite told the pro-Kremlin website Life. “MakDak would have been better,” said another, referring to the shorthand Russians often used to refer to McDonald’s. `
McDonald’s copies are not a new trend. A McDonald’s in Russian-occupied Donetsk was renamed DonMak after the city was captured following the beginning of the war in 2014.
Alexander Govor, the owner of the chain, said up to 7 bn roubles (£98.63m) would be invested this year in the business, which employs 51,000 people, Reuters reported. But BBC Russian reported that the sanctioned bank Sovcombank may also have played a role in the acquisition, saying that Govor would not have had enough capital to acquire the entire fast-food chain on his own.
source: The Guardian