Russian consumers received their first taste of the former McDonald’s under new local ownership on Sunday, as the rebranded fast-food chain opened 15 restaurants in Moscow weeks after buying the operations.
McDonald’s agreed last month to sell its Russian business to Alexander Govor, a local franchisee of the chain in Siberia who has taken over the portfolio of roughly 850 restaurants.
Rebranded as Vkusno & Tochka, or ‘Tasty — Full Stop’, the new owners are expected to open another 50 restaurants on Monday. By the end of June they are aiming to have 200 reopened, Oleg Paroyev, the chief executive of Vkusno & Tochka, told a press conference on Sunday, Interfax reported.
It is not just the name that has changed, with the word ‘Mac’ being removed from the new menu. Vkusno & Tochka intends to make changes to the menu but keep the taste the same for Russians who were first acquainted with McDonald’s when the group entered the country in 1990.
After initially suspending its operations in March, McDonald’s said in May that the invasion of Ukraine meant it was ‘no longer tenable’ to operate in Russia. The Chicago-based company had been spending about $55mn a month on rent and wages for its 62,000 Russian employees before selling the operations.
Govor is required to keep the staff and their current work agreements intact for at least two years, according to Russian media reports. Govor has said the rebranded business expects to expand to 1,000 restaurants within the next five to six years.
A little-known businessman from Novokuznetsk, a metals and coal-producing town in west Siberia, Govor managed McDonald’s restaurants across west and east Siberia through his company GiD, according to Russian media reports.
After making his fortune in the coal business in the 2000s, he then diversified into food and agriculture, the reports said. He founded Sibirskaya Milyona, a food producer which owns several cattle farms, milk plants, a sausage factory and a restaurant.
What was once the Russian website of the US fast-food chain has removed all references to McDonald’s and now redirects to the website skoro-tut-budut-burgers.ru, which translates as “there will be burgers here soon.ru”
Paroyev, who was reportedly appointed as the head of McDonald’s Russian operations shortly before Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in late February, said that the new owners are intending to minimise any changes for customers.
However, the restaurant’s logo has been changed to a small red burger with two tiled french fries.
Although dozens of western consumer brands have announced plans to leave Russia, the decision by McDonald’s to do so was one of the most symbolic as the invasion left Russia increasingly isolated from the west.
When it launched in Moscow in January 1990 more than 30,000 people queued up to buy a burger. Its withdrawal from Russia was its first from a major market and left the US group with a non-cash charge of as much as $1.4bn.