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

June 12 (Reuters) – It may look and smell like a McDonald’s, but now it’s Vkusno & tochka. The golden bows are gone, the Filet-O-Fish is just a fish burger. The Big Mac has left Russia.

On Sunday, a new era began for Russia’s economic and fast food scene, when McDonald’s (MCD.N) restaurants opened in Moscow under a new Russian property with the new name, which translates as “Tasty and you’re done.”

The inauguration of the branded 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 clear sign of a new world order. The reopening took place on Russia Day, a holiday that celebrates national pride.

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The chain’s fortune, which McDonald’s sold when it left the country over the Ukraine conflict, could provide evidence of how Russia’s economy can become more self-sufficient and withstand Western sanctions. Read more

On Sunday, dozens of people lined up in front of what used to be McDonald’s flagship restaurant on Pushkin Square in central Moscow. The outlet had a new logo – a stylized burger with two french fries – as well as a slogan that said, “The name changes, the love stays.”

The queue was significantly smaller than the thousands of people who gathered at the original McDonald’s opening there in 1990 during the Soviet era.

The Vkusno & tochka menu was also smaller and did not offer Big Mac or other burgers and desserts, such as McFlurry. A double cheeseburger cost 129 rubles ($ 2.31) compared to about 160 at McDonald’s and a fish burger for 169 rubles, compared to about 190 earlier.

The composition of the burgers has not changed and the McDonald’s team has remained, said Alexander Merkulov, head of quality at the new company.

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

In a hurry that the new owners have had to change in time for the launch, much of the packaging for chips and burgers was white, as were the drink cups, while the takeaway bags were colored brown. The old McDonald’s logo on packages of ketchup and other sauces was covered in makeshift black markings.

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

“The taste has stayed the same,” he said as he hid with a chicken and french fries burger. “The queue is different, but there’s really no change to the burger.”

Employees are involved in preparations ahead of the opening of a new restaurant, following McDonald’s Corp.’s decision to sell its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, which will change their brand name to a new one. Moscow, Russia, June 12, 2022. REUTERS / Evgenia Novozhenina

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Moscow’s flagship restaurant is among the 15 outlets that initially open on Sunday in and around the capital. Oleg Paroev, CEO of Vkusno & tochka, said the company planned to reopen 200 restaurants in Russia by the end of June and 850 by the end of the summer. See FACTBOX: read more

“We didn’t work for three months,” said Ruzanna, manager of a Moscow branch that will open in July. “Everyone is very happy.”

The chain will keep the interior of its former McDonald’s, but will remove any reference to its former name, said Paroev, who was appointed CEO of Russia’s McDonald’s weeks before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“Our goal is for our guests not to notice any difference in either the quality or the atmosphere,” Paroev said at a press conference at the restaurant. He said the chain would maintain “affordable prices”, although he added that prices would probably rise due to inflation, but no more than its competitors.

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

“We have no right to use certain colors, we have no right to use golden bows, we have no right to use any mention of McDonald’s,” he told Reuters.

“The Big Mac is the story of McDonald’s. We’re definitely going to do something similar,” he said. “We will try to do something even better so that our visitors and guests like this dish.”

Govor said up to 7 billion rubles ($ 125.56 million) would be invested in the business this year, which employs more than 50,000 people.

“The corporation asked me, first of all, to keep the staff, to employ the people. That is what I will do,” he added.

Govor said the company was looking for new soft drink suppliers such as Coca Cola (KO.N), which said it was suspending its business in Russia.

Moments after the press conference ended, a man stood in front of the cameras with a sign that read “Bring Back the Big Mac.” He was quickly heard by the restaurant staff.

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Reuters report; Edited by Josephine Mason and Pravin Char

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