Rebranded McDonald’s locations reopen in Russia, as a knockoff economy emerges to adapt to sanctions

Tuesday, June 14, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |
Not the Golden Arches (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Not the Golden Arches (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

McDowell’s vibes… but this isn’t a “Coming to America” tale of Big Macs vs. Big Micks. Former McDonald’s locations in Russia are reopening under different owners — with the same ketchup packets. Quick refresher: McDonald’s closed its 840 Russian restaurants in May in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, and later sold them to a Siberian oil mogul. Last weekend, after a quick-and-dirty rebrand, they began reopening:

  • 15 ex-McD’s opened in Moscow. New name: "Tasty & That's It.” The other 800+ are expected to reopen by summer’s end.
  • Scrap the McBranding: The restaurants sell burgers and fries, but workers reportedly scribbled out McD’s logos on old ketchup packets to avoid violating trademarks.

The Calorie Curtain has some holes… American food behemoths like McDonald’s and Starbucks stopped selling Big Macs and Venti Lattes in Russia months ago (the #CalorieCurtain), joining Western peers like Disney, Apple, and Shell. But Russia’s economy hasn’t been crushed by the corporate exodus:

  • Russian shelves have stayed stocked thanks to Putin’s efforts to reduce reliance on trade. Case in point: Tasty & That’s It gets 98% of ingredients from Russia.
  • Russia’s ruble recovered from an early crash thanks to aggressive central-bank policy, and manufacturing’s on the rebound too.
  • But DIY’s hard: Russia is now manufacturing cars without airbags since auto partner Renault exited, and many juice boxes might be white soon since ink imports dried up.

A knockoff economy is emerging… but it’s easier to replace burgers than computer chips. Corporate departures and sanctions haven’t caused Russia’s economy to shut down. Yet they’re forcing Russia to rebuild itself with fewer trade partners and many missing pieces. Long term, sanctions could have a more dire effect: Putin still hasn’t found replacements for key components, like microchips, and Europe’s looming oil ban will likely hit Russia’s coffers.