Long lines are forming outside of McDonald’s restaurants in Russia ahead of the company’s nationwide exit, mirroring a time when eager consumers first gathered for the fast-food chain’s arrival in Moscow over 30 years ago.
McDonald’s announced this week that it will sell its 850 restaurants in Russia due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The company temporarily shut down its businesses due to the conflict in March, but it said Monday that its overall presence in Russia is no longer “consistent with McDonald’s values.”
The move marks the first time the fast-food chain has ever left a major global market. The company said it will seek a local buyer who will employ its 62,000 workers currently in Russia, and that it will continue to pay those employees until a deal is made. However, the new owner will no longer be able to use the McDonald’s name, logo, branding or menu.
Across social media, videos have emerged showing Russians lined up to grab a final meal at one the few restaurants still open in Moscow.
“We came here to say goodbye,” one Russian resident said in a video captured by The Wall Street Journal.
Others expressed fear that under new ownership and branding, the quality of the restaurants will suffer.
“I read yesterday that McDonald’s was closing soon and opening under a new name, so I rushed here today to buy my favorite cheeseburger, milkshake and chips,” another Russian resident named Alla told Reuters. “What if the quality gets worse?”
The latest footage mirrored the grand opening of the very first McDonald’s restaurant in Pushkin Square, located in central Moscow, on January 31, 1990. At that time, the location broke global record sales with more than 30,000 people line up around the block, Reuters reported.
The opening of the restaurant was seen as a major political and cultural development, as it was one of the first Western brands to open shop before the collapse of the Soviet Union. In an article published Tuesday in Bloomberg, reporter Katia Dmitrieva reflected on her father’s work as one of the first managers of McDonald’s in Russia, writing that its presence in nation was seen as a “beacon of economic possibility.”
“The biggest thing for Russian people, it’s not the food they’re eating. It’s the feeling of America,” Dmitrieva’s father once said. “It was never about the food.”
Ivan Tumanov, a 45-year-old Russian resident, echoed that sentiment while standing in line outside of a McDonald’s in Moscow’s Leningradsky Station this week.
“Standing in a queue for a while is nothing to be afraid of, if one remembers how long we stood in the ’90s,” Tumanov told Reuters. “Let’s remind ourselves today of a taste of the West.”