Tasty name but no Big Mac: Russia opens renowned McDonald’s restaurants

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A view shows a tray with food and a drink at the new ‘Vkusno & tochka’ restaurant, which opens after McDonald’s Corp exits the Russian market, in Moscow on June 12, 2022. – Reuters pic

Sunday, June 12, 2022 9:20 PM MYT

MOSCOW, June 12 – 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 business and fast-food scene began today, as McDonald’s restaurants opened in Moscow under new Russian ownership and with the new name, which translates to ‘Tasty and it’ is all”.

The unveiling of the marquee outlets, more than three decades after the US burger giant first opened in Moscow in a symbolic thaw between East and West, is once again a strong sign of a new world order. The reopenings took place on Russia Day, a holiday celebrating national pride.

A view shows a flag with the logo of the new restaurant

A view shows a flag with the logo of the new ‘Vkusno & tochka’ restaurant, which opens after McDonald’s Corp exits the Russian market, in Moscow June 12, 2022. – Reuters pic

The fortune of the chain, which McDonald’s sold when it left the country because of the conflict in Ukraine, could provide a test of the Russian economy’s ability to become more self-sufficient and withstand Western sanctions.

Dozens of people lined up outside what was once McDonald’s flagship restaurant in Pushkin Square in central Moscow today. The outlet featured a new logo – a stylized hamburger with two fries – as well as a slogan: “The name changes, the love remains”.

The queue was significantly smaller than the thousands of people who thronged for the original opening of McDonald’s in 1990 during Soviet times.

People gather near the new 'Vkusno & tochka' restaurant, which opens after McDonald's Corp exits the Russian market, in Moscow June 12, 2022. - Reuters pic

People gather near the new ‘Vkusno & tochka’ restaurant, which opens after McDonald’s Corp exits the Russian market, in Moscow June 12, 2022. – Reuters pic

Vkusno & tochka’s menu was also smaller and didn’t offer the Big Mac and a few other burgers and desserts, like the McFlurry. A double cheeseburger cost 129 rubles (RM10) compared to around 160 under McDonald’s and a fish burger for 169 rubles, compared to around 190 previously.

The composition of hamburgers did not change, and McDonald’s equipment remained, said Alexander Merkulov, quality manager of the new company.

McDonald’s closed its Russian restaurants in March and said in mid-May it had decided to leave the country altogether.

In a sign of the rush the new owners had to rebrand in time for the launch, much of the packaging for fries and burgers was plain white, as were the cups, while the take-out bags were plain brown. The old McDonald’s logo on packets of ketchup and other sauces was covered in makeshift black markings.

Sergei, a 15-year-old customer, however, saw little difference.

“The taste stayed the same,” he said, enjoying a chicken burger and fries. “The cola is different, but there’s really no change in the burger.”

People visit the new 'Vkusno & tochka' restaurant, which opens after the exit of McDonald's Corp from the Russian market, in Moscow June 12, 2022. - Reuters pic

People visit the new ‘Vkusno & tochka’ restaurant, which opens after the exit of McDonald’s Corp from the Russian market, in Moscow June 12, 2022. – Reuters pic

Better than a Big Mac?

The Moscow flagship restaurant is among 15 renowned outlets initially opening in and around the capital on Sunday. Oleg Paroev, CEO of Vkusno & tochka, said the company plans to reopen 200 restaurants in Russia by the end of June and 850 by the end of summer.

“For three months we haven’t worked,” said Ruzanna, manager of a Moscow branch due to open in July. “Everyone is very happy.” The chain will keep its old McDonald’s interior but remove all references to its old name, said Paroev, who was named CEO of McDonald’s in Russia weeks before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“Our goal is for our customers not to notice any difference in quality or ambiance,” Paroev told a press conference in the restaurant. He said the chain would maintain “affordable prices”, but added that prices would likely rise due to inflation, but no more than its competitors.

Siberian businessman Alexander Govor, the chain’s new owner, told Reuters it would look to launch something similar to McDonald’s flagship Big Mac.

“We are not allowed to use certain colors, we are not allowed to use the golden bows, we are not allowed to use any mention of McDonald’s,” he said. 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 to make our visitors and guests love this dish.” Govor said up to 7 billion rubles would be invested this year in the company, which employs more than 50,000 people.

“The company first asked me to keep the workforce, to give people work. That’s what I’m going to do,” he added.

Govor said the company was looking for new suppliers of soft drinks like Coca Cola, which said it was suspending operations in Russia.

Moments after the press conference ended, a man stood up in front of the cameras holding a sign that read “Bring Back the Big Mac.” He was quickly escorted out by restaurant staff. —Reuters

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