After more than 30 years, McDonald’s is leaving Russia for good

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New York (AFP) – A symbol of the end of the Cold War is leaving Moscow: After more than 30 years of presence in Russia, McDonald’s announced on Monday that it was withdrawing from the country entirely and selling off its activities in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

“The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the resulting unpredictable economic environment led McDonald’s to conclude that the continuation of our operations in Russia was no longer sustainable or consistent with our values,” the American giant said in a statement.

The company announced on March 8 the temporary closure of all its restaurants and the suspension of its operations in the country, following in the footsteps of other multinationals that distanced themselves from Moscow.

Like other brands that are symbols of American culture around the world, such as Coca-Cola or Starbucks, the fast-food chain was then the target of a boycott on social media.

“We are committed to our global community and must remain adamant about our values,” said Group CEO Chris Kempczinski in the statement. “Respecting our values ​​means we can no longer keep the Arches (McDonald’s logo, editor’s note)” in Russia, he added.

Present in Russia for over 30 years, McDonald’s has approximately 850 restaurants and 62,000 employees. The group estimates that it will charge between 1.2 billion and 1.4 billion dollars due to its departure from the country.

Russia, where McDonald’s directly manages more than 80% of the restaurants named after it, accounts for 9% of the company’s total revenue and 3% of its operating profit.

McDonald’s located just steps from the Kremlin in Moscow on March 10, 2022 -AFP/Files

The group is trying to resell its entire Russian portfolio to a local player, but has yet to name a buyer. Whoever assumes the activity may not use the McDonald’s name, logo or menus.

Until a transaction is finalized, the company agrees to continue paying its employees and wants to ensure that they continue to be employed by the prospective acquirer.

– “New Age”-

McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in January 1990 in Moscow, just under two years before the collapse of the USSR.

“After nearly half a century of Cold War animosity, the image of the Golden Arches shining over Pushkin Square represented for many on both sides of the Iron Curtain the beginning of a new era,” Kempczinski described in a letter to the entire community. McDonalds.

It was then a major event for the Soviets in the midst of perestroika turmoil.

The group expanded in the following years and decades to several other Russian cities, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, via Saint Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

“McDonald’s and Russia have become so intertwined that it seems impossible to imagine one without the other,” summarized Kempczinski. “And yet, unfortunately, that’s where we’re at today.”

A closed McDonald's in Moscow, March 16, 2022
A closed McDonald’s in Moscow, March 16, 2022 -AFP/Files

Like many other Western companies, the restaurant owner has decided to withdraw from the country, citing, in addition to humanitarian considerations and condemnation of Russian military actions, the growing difficulty of operating the business normally.

French automaker Renault ceded its assets to Russia on Monday, namely its majority stake in the Lada car group, marking the first major nationalization since the start of the Ukrainian conflict.

Mr. Kempczinski assured that McDonald’s departure from Russia “was not an easy decision and will not be easy to implement given the size of our business and the current difficulties of operating in Russia”.

However, he confirmed that the group would not reconsider his choice.

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