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McDonald’s Russia changes its name: a “tasty” name but no Big Mac

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.

“Tasty and that’s it”

A new era for Russia’s economy and fast-food scene dawned on Sunday, as McDonald’s restaurants opened in Moscow under new Russian ownership and with the new name, which translates to ‘Tasty and it’ is all”.

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Moments after the press conference, 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.
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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.

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.

On Sunday, dozens of people lined up outside what was once McDonald’s flagship restaurant in Pushkin Square in central Moscow. 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 flocked to McDonald’s original opening in 1990 during Soviet times.

“We need to avoid a drop in quality, to keep everything as it was, because we loved McDonald’s,” said IT scientist Sardana Donskaya, who stood in line 32 years ago for a taste of a brand that embodied Western capitalism and returned on Sunday to inaugurate its successor.

Vkusno & tochka’s menu was smaller and didn’t offer the Big Mac and a few other burgers and desserts, like the McFlurry. A double cheeseburger cost 129 rubles ($2.31) 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, one of the most publicized business departures since Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine February 24.

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.”

“Everyone is very happy”

Moscow’s flagship restaurant is among 15 renowned outlets 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 Russia weeks before the conflict in Ukraine began.

“Our goal is for our customers not to notice any difference in quality or ambiance,” Paroev told a press conference in the restaurant.

Siberian businessman Alexander Govor, the company’s new owner, told Reuters he would look to launch something similar to McDonald’s 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 McDonald’s history. 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.”

CEO Paroev added that the company was looking for new suppliers of soft drinks as it ran out of stock at Coca Cola, which suspended sales in Russia. Paroev said all but 2% of the chain’s ingredients come from Russia.

Not everyone was impressed.

“Bring Back the Big Mac”

Moments after the press conference, 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.

Govor is one of many Russians to grab assets as hundreds of Western companies flee. He said on Sunday he paid a “token” amount “well below market price” for McDonald’s Russia. McDonald’s, the world’s largest hamburger chain, took on up to $1.4 billion after the sale.

Russian authorities have said the US group has the right to take over its restaurants within 15 years – although Govor has poured cold water on the possibility.

“They made it clear to me that they would not repurchase,” he said, as quoted by Interfax.

McDonald’s, which said Govor would retain the chain’s tens of thousands of employees for at least two years, was not immediately available to comment further on the terms of the sale or its future Russian intentions.

© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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