Big Macs still on sale in Russia despite McDonald’s exit

McDonald’s sold most of its 850 restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees in May. Some of them reopened on Sunday under the new name of Vkusno & tochka, or “Tasty and that’s it”, offering a new menu without the flagship burger.

But other franchisees have kept their locations open, selling authentic McDonald’s meals in restaurants adorned with barely concealed McDonald’s branding.

Their continued presence underscores the challenges facing Western companies to fully extricate themselves from the Russian market following Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

The McDonald’s name and logo were covered in transparent white cloth at stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the Big Mac burger was available, although renamed Bolshoi Burger, or Big Burger.

In Moscow’s Leningradskiy Station and St. Petersburg’s Finlandskiy Station, McDonald’s logos were used on take-out bags, and the American company’s brand was still visible on other electronic packaging and menus.

Rival Burger King halted business support for its sites in Russia in March, but restaurants remain open and thriving in places such as central Moscow. Burger King struggled to break a complex franchise agreement

The nuance with McDonald’s also concerns franchises. A franchisee, Rosinter Restaurants, is keeping its locations at airports and train stations in Moscow and St Petersburg until 2023, saying it has a “one-time deal” with the US company, TASS reported last week.

“EVERYTHING IS CHANGING”

Although the Big Mac was removed from the menu at Rosinter outlets, in St. Petersburg it was possible to order one directly. Diana, the cashier, explained that fries were however unavailable due to lack of deliveries, with potato wedges for sale instead.

So did the soft drinks from the soda gun. The restaurant sold Coca Cola products by the bottle. Coca Cola suspended sales in Russia and it was not immediately clear whether this violated the agreements. Coca-Cola had no immediate comment.

The Big Mac was served in a ‘Chicken Premier’ box and seemed to lack the signature sauce.

Store manager Valentina smiled and said, “Everything changes”, when asked if there was less sauce than usual.

Rosinter said it was facing delivery issues due to supply chain disruptions. “This is a temporary issue that will be resolved as the logistics situation normalizes,” he said.

Astoria, which is part of NMGK, could not be reached by phone and did not respond to emailed comments.

McDonald’s declined to comment on specifics from Reuters reporting. The company said it exited the market entirely when it finalized the transfer of its Russian operations to Govor.

(Reporting by Reuters; Additional reporting by Hilary Russ and Jessica DiNapoli; Editing by Matt Scuffham, Alexandra Hudson)

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