Updated June 13, 2022 at 10:36 AM ET
What could possibly replace McDonald's iconic Golden Arches? In the case of its new Russian spinoff, the answer appears to be orange backslashes.
The launch of Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine prompted McDonald's to withdraw from the country after more than 30 years, a process that entailed pausing its operations and "de-arching" its restaurants in an undisclosed deal secured with a new Russian buyer.
Last month, the company announced that Alexander Govor, a Siberian coal baron who had previously licensed 25 McDonald's franchises, would acquire the rest of its 850 Russian locations and operate them under a new brand. Under the acquisition deal, Govor also promised to retain and pay McDonald's 62,000 Russian employees for at least two years.
At the launch of his flagship store on Moscow's Pushkin Square Sunday, Govor unveiled the franchise's new name — "Vkusno I Tochka," which translates to English as "Delicious, that's all" — to the public before a nationwide rollout.
The initial reactions were mixed.
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Local university student Ilya Konsenberg said the burgers and fries tasted the same — a claim company representatives have maintained amid assurances that McDonald's suppliers of Russian beef, chicken and potatoes remain unchanged.
"It's just different packaging," noted Konsenberg.
Fellow patron Ludmilla Rudenko, however, said she felt like she was at a funeral. Clutching an empty hamburger wrapper, she expressed fears that the chain she and her family have come to love might resort to old Soviet traditions of poor service — and even poorer quality food.
"Have you ever eaten in a Soviet restaurant?" she asked. "You never knew if the meat you were getting was lamb, pork ... or your neighbor's cat."
The company opened its first 15 locations in the Moscow region on Sunday, with another 200 set to roll out across the country later this month.
The company released its new logo before its name
Sistema PBO, which manages the company, revealed its new logo on Thursday.
It depicts a small red circle and two orange lines (aka a burger and pair of fries) against a green background, which the spokesperson said represents the quality of the chain's products and service. Altogether, the three shapes somewhat resemble an abstract letter "M."
Twitter users have noted its similarity to the logos of other popular brands, including the Japanese chain Mos Burger, Marriott hotels and the Warner Brothers logo from 1972. Others compared it to a drowning stick figure, cricket bats and the flag of Bangladesh.
The new name remained a surprise until Sunday's reopening. Citing the state newspaper Izvestia, the BBC previously reported that the chain had submitted eight potential names to the Russian government agency in charge of intellectual property, including "Tot Samyi," which translates to "The Same One," and "Svobodnaya Kassa," meaning "available cash register."
Of course, classic menu items will have to be rebranded, too. The Filet-O-Fish will be called a "Fish Burger" and burgers will be known as "Grand" rather than "Royal," according to the Moscow Times.
The McDonald's app changed its name to "My Burger" for Russian users on Friday, but the chain's press team said the change was only temporary, according to Reuters. The app's home page reportedly featured a slogan reading: "Some things are changing, but stable work is here to stay."
Anna Patrunina, one of the first McDonald's hires in the Soviet Union and the vice president of operations for the new spinoff, said the primary difference between the two companies is Russian confidence.
"Thirty two years ago we were so worried because we didn't know how it would go," she said. "But today we know exactly what we're doing."
Indeed, not much else is changing: It's employing the same restaurant staff, and Govor has said there's no reason to reinvent the wheel of McDonald's "world famous" system.
Still, McDonald's exit from Russia is significant
International newspapers covered the opening of Russia's first McDonald's as an example of the Soviet Union embracing capitalist principles, she explained, and images of people lining up to eat at the Pushkin Square location have come to represent that moment of transition and Cold War thawing.
McDonald's departure represents a new period of isolation for Russia, with thousands of Western companies limiting or ending operations in the country as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. And while its withdrawal could leave thousands of food service and agriculture workers without jobs, Ironside acknowledged, some people in Russia are seeing a silver lining.
"For the more nationalistic types, it's seen as, you know, maybe a positive symbol that it's going down because there were people even in the '90s who were not very happy about the fact that they spread so quickly, that they were, again, sort of proving this capitalist business model," she explained.
The chain timed its reopening with Russia Day, a national holiday commemorating the 1990 adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Sunday marked 108 days since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion of Ukraine.
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