An employee stands in front of the menu counter of the Russian version of a former McDonald’s restaurant before the opening ceremony, in Moscow on June 12.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images
It might look and smell like McDonald’s but now it’s Vkusno & tochka. The golden arches are gone, the Filet-O-Fish is simply a fish burger. The Big Mac has left Russia.
A new era for Russia’s fast-food and economic scene dawned on Sunday, as McDonald’s restaurants flung open their doors in Moscow under new Russian ownership and with the new name, which translates as “Tasty and that’s it”.
The unveiling of the rebranded outlets, more than three decades after the American burger giant first opened its doors in Moscow in a symbolic thaw between East and West, is once again a stark sign of a new world order. The reopenings took place on Russia Day, a holiday celebrating national pride.
The fortunes of the chain, which McDonald’s sold when it exited the country over the conflict in Ukraine, could provide a test of how successfully Russia’s economy can become more self-sufficient and withstand Western sanctions.
On Sunday, scores of people queued outside what was formerly McDonald’s flagship restaurant in Pushkin Square, central Moscow. The outlet sported a new logo – a stylized burger with two fries – plus a slogan reading: “The name changes, love stays”.
Top; People line up outside Moscow’s first McDonald’s restaurant during its opening on Jan. 31, 1990 and people gathering near the new restaurant ‘Vkusno & tochka’ in Moscow on June 12, which opened following McDonald’s Corp company’s exit from the Russian market.EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/Reuters
Vkusno & tochka’s menu was also smaller and did not offer the Big Mac and some other burgers and desserts, such as the McFlurry. A double cheeseburger was going for 129 roubles ($2.31) compared with roughly 160 under McDonald’s and a fish burger for 169 roubles, compared with about 190 previously.
In a sign of the haste the new owners have had to rebrand in time for the launch, much of the packaging for fries and burgers was plain white, as were drink cups, while takeaway bags were plain brown. The old McDonald’s logo on packets of ketchup and other sauces were covered over with makeshift black markings.
“The taste has stayed the same,” he said as he tucked into a chicken burger and fries. “The cola is different, but there really is no change to the burger.”
The flagship Moscow restaurant is among 15 rebranded outlets that are initially opening in and around the capital on Sunday. Oleg Paroev, CEO of Vkusno & tochka, said the company was planning to reopen 200 restaurants in Russia by the end of June and all 850 by the end of the summer. See FACTBOX:
The chain will keep its old McDonald’s interior but will expunge any references to its former name, said Paroev, who was appointed Russia McDonald’s CEO weeks before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“Our goal is that our guests do not notice a difference either in quality or ambience,” Paroev told a media conference in the restaurant. He said the chain would keep “affordable prices”, though added that prices would likely rise due to inflation, but not higher than its competitors.
“We don’t have the right to use some colours, we don’t have the right to use the golden arches, we don’t have the right to use any mention of McDonald’s,” he told Reuters.
“The Big Mac is the story of McDonald’s. We will definitely do something similar,” he said. “We will try to do something even better so that our visitors and guests like this dish.”
Moments after the press conference finished a man stood up in front of the cameras holding a sign that read “Bring back the Big Mac”. He was swiftly escorted out by restaurant staff.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.
source: The Globe and Mail