McDonald’s Withdraws from Russia

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McDonald’s was one of the first American fast-food restaurants to enter the Soviet Union, reflecting the new political openness of the era. The restaurant near Moscow’s Pushkin Square opened in January 1990. It was a gateway to the utopia 9- year old Vlad Vexler imagined the West to be.

  • “We thought that life there was magical and there were no problems,” Vexler said.

So it was all the more poignant for Vexler when McDonald’s announced it would temporarily close that store and nearly 850 others in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. McDonald’s Russian website on Monday read: “Due to operational, technical and logistical difficulties, McDonald’s will temporarily suspend service at its network enterprises from March 14.”

  • McDonald’s said in a statement that “at this juncture, it’s impossible to predict when we might be able to reopen our restaurants in Russia.”

They are continuing to pay their employees though. This week, the company said that it expects the closure to cost around $50 million per month.

A student named, Lev Shalpo bemoaned the closure last week.

  • “It’s wrong because it was the only affordable place for me where I could eat,” he said.

Just as McDonald’s paved the way for other brands to enter the Soviet market, its exit led to a path of similar announcements from other U.S. brands. Starbucks closed its 130 outlets in Russia. Yum Brands closed its 70 company-owned KFC restaurants and was negotiating the closure of 50 Pizza Huts that are owned by franchisees.