What used to be McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow opened their doors again under new Russian ownership bearing the name Vkusno i tochka, meaning “Tasty, full stop”.
Fifteen rebranded restaurants opened around the capital on Sunday after the US-based burger giant withdrew its operation over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The reopening of the outlets is thought to be a test of whether Russia’s economy can become more self-sufficient and withstand Western sanctions.
Others, however, see the move as another step toward Russia becoming more isolated from the rest of the world.
Director-General of Vkusno i tochka, Oleg Paroyev, said although the restaurants no longer serve McDonald’s signature dishes, customers can still enjoy the food.
“Some products will no longer be on our menus, such as Big Mac or McFlury,” he explained.
“This is due to the fact that these brands, their appearance and manufacturing have a very direct association with the McDonald’s brand,” Paryoev said, “but I want to promise that in the very near future we’ll have a worthy replacement for these products, which I am sure our consumers will like.”
Vkusno i tochka branches will keep their previous McDonald’s interior but will remove any references to its old name.
Owners of the chain say their aim was to keep people employed and working. The company currently employs 51,000 people.
McDonald’s left Russia over ‘needless human suffering’
McDonald’s was the first big Western fast-food chain to open a restaurant in the Soviet Union, after a summit between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan led to the USSR permitting joint ventures in 1987.
The burger chain opened its first restaurant in the Soviet capital in January 1990 — a joint venture between McDonald’s Canada and Moscow City Council — beating its competitor Pizza Hut by several months.
The restaurant — the largest McDonald’s in the world at the time — has not shut its doors until early March, bar a sanitary inspection closure in 2014.
The closure for “health and safety violations” was seen as an act of retaliation over US sanctions against the Kremlin for its annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and involvement in the war in the eastern region of Donbas. The restaurant, however, reopened after 90 days.
In an open letter to employees on 7 March, McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempckinski said closing those stores was the right thing to do.
“Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine,” Kempczinski said.
The company also pledged to keep paying its 62,000 employees in Russia.