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Delicious name but no Big Mac: Russia opens renamed McDonald’s restaurants

Delicious name but no Big Mac: Russia opens renamed McDonald's restaurants

June 12 (Reuters) – It may look and smell like McDonald’s, but it’s now Vkusno & tochka. The golden arches are gone, filet or fish is just a fish burger. Big Mac left Russia.

A new era of fast food and economic scene dawned in Russia on Sunday, as McDonald’s (MCD.N) Restaurants have opened their doors in Moscow with new Russian ownership and a new name that translates to “yummy and that’s it.”

The unveiling of renamed stores, 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 stark sign of a new world order. The reopening took place on Russia Day, a holiday that celebrates national pride.

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The fortunes of the chain, which McDonald’s sold when it left the country due to the conflict in Ukraine, could provide a test of how well the Russian economy can become more self-sufficient and withstand Western sanctions. Read more

On Sunday, dozens of people queued outside what was formerly the main McDonald’s restaurant on Pushkin Square in central Moscow. The outlet carried a new logo – a signature burger with two fries – as well as a slogan that read: “Name changes, love stays.”

The queue was much smaller than the thousands of people who crowded when the original McDonald’s opened there in 1990 during the Soviet era.

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

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Alexander Merkulov, director of quality at the new company, said that the composition of the burgers did not change and the equipment from McDonald’s did not change.

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

In a sign of haste, the new owners had to rebrand in time for the launch, many of the packages of fries and burgers were plain white, as were the drink cups, while the takeaway bags were plain brown. The old McDonald’s logo was covered on the packaging of ketchup and other sauces with temporary black marks.

But Sergey, a 15-year-old customer, did not notice much difference.

“The taste has stayed the same,” he said while dressing up a chicken burger and fries. “Cola is different, but really there is no change in the burger.”

Better than a big Mac?

The main Moscow restaurant is among 15 rebranded outlets that initially opened in and around the capital on Sunday. Oleg Baruev, CEO of Vkusno & tochka, said the company plans to reopen 200 restaurants in Russia by the end of June and all 850 restaurants by the end of summer. SEE FACTBOX: READ MORE

“We haven’t worked for three months,” said Rosana, manager of a Moscow branch due to open in July. “Everyone is very pleased.”

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Baroev, who was appointed CEO of McDonald’s in Russia weeks before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine on February 24, said the chain would keep its old McDonald’s interior, but would delete any references to its former name.

“Our goal is for our guests not to notice a difference in quality or ambiance,” Barov said at a news conference at the restaurant. He said the chain would maintain “reasonable prices,” although he added that prices may likely rise due to inflation, but not higher than its competitors.

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

“We don’t have the right to use some colors, we don’t have the right to use the golden arches, we don’t have the right to use any mention of McDonald’s,” he told Reuters.

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

Gofour said that up to seven billion rubles ($125.56 million) will be invested this year in the company, which employs more than 50,000 people.

He added, “The company asked me, first of all, to keep the number of employees, to provide people with work. That’s what I will do.”

Gofour said the company was looking for new suppliers of soft drinks such as Coca Cola (KO.N)which said it would suspend its business in Russia.

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Moments after the press conference ended, a man stood in front of the cameras holding a sign that read “Back the Big Mac”. Was quickly escorted by the restaurant staff.

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Reporting by Reuters. Editing by Josephine Mason and Praveen Shar

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.