1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

McDonald's to permanently exit Russia

May 16, 2022

The fast-food giant has said it was leaving because of the "unpredictable operating environment" and "humanitarian" reasons. McDonald's was quick to set up shop in the Soviet Union in the waning embers of the Cold War.

 The logo of the McDonald's restaurant in Russia, in St. Petersburg during the sanctions.
McDonald's will no longer serve its Russian customers, after over 30 years of businessImage: Maksim Konstantinov/Russia Look/picture alliance

America's fast-food giant McDonald's rolled out on Monday the process to sell its hundreds of restaurants in Russia, joining scores of Western companies who are exiting the Russian market amid international sanctions.

"The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald's to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable," the Chicago-based company said.

McDonald's had already announced the temporary closure of its some 850 restaurants in Russia in March, soon after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But Monday's move draws the curtain on the company's activities in Russia for good, after more than 30 years of operation.

The company said it was looking for a Russian buyer to hire its 62,000 employees and pay them until the sale is finalized. It has yet to identify a potential buyer.

Hundreds of Muscovites line up around the first McDonald's restaurant in the Soviet Union on its opening day, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 1990.
McDonald's opening day in Moscow in 1990 drew enormous crowds and queuesImage: AP/picture alliance

McDonald's first restaurant in Russia opened in the middle of Moscow over three decades ago, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall and before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many at the time saw this as a symbol of the melting Cold War tensions between the US and the Soviet Union.

Values and 'commitment to global community'

In a statement, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski addressed the difficulty the company faced when making the decision to leave, saying that McDonald's felt a "dedication and loyalty" to the tens of thousands of employees and hundreds of Russian suppliers.

"However, we have a commitment to our global community and must remain steadfast in our values. And our commitment to our values means that we can no longer keep the arches shining there," he said.

The global fast-food chain's unmistakable "arches" (two in yellow combining to make an M shape), which have long served as the restaurant's trademark brand, will no longer be available for use after the sale, alongside the McDonald's name, logo or menu.

Yet one company in Russia is trying to keep that logo, only with a small change. A company calling itself Uncle Vanya, after the Chekov play, is trying to trademark the McDonald's arches turned on their side to create what looks like a B in the Roman alphabet but represents a V sound in Russian, to symbolize the name Uncle Vanya. The company is thought to be a likely candidate to seek to purchase some or all McDonald's facilities in Russia.

rmt/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)