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McDonald's Moscow restaurant reopens after shutdown

Chicago Tribune

McDonald's first and largest restaurant in Russia reopened after local officials closed the location for three months, an optimistic sign for a company trying to return to business as usual in the country.

The outlet, in Moscow's Pushkin Square, resumed business Wednesday, said Svetlana Polyakova, a spokeswoman for McDonald's Russia. Two more Moscow restaurants that were forced to close will reopen, one this month and another in January, after modernizing their interiors and equipment, she said.

The resumption of operations at Pushkin Square follows a clash between McDonald's and Russian consumer-safety regulators, who stepped up inspections of restaurants and ordered some to be closed. The troubles accompanied mounting geopolitical tensions over the conflict in Ukraine. After the U.S. and European Union imposed sanctions on Russia, President Vladimir Putin struck back with an import ban on certain foods.

There have been about 250 safety probes into McDonald's restaurants in Russia this year, Polyakova said. Six restaurants — two in Moscow, one in Sochi and three in Volgograd -- remain closed after court decisions and the company will appeal their closings, McDonald's said in a statement on its website.

Russia's consumer-safety agency has also taken the U.S. fast-food chain to court for allegedly understating the caloric value of its burgers and milkshakes, and having microbial contamination in other products.

Russia represents a big chunk of business for McDonald's — about $2.2 billion in sales, according to Euromonitor. As McDonald's outlets in Russia are company-owned, these sales count fully as McDonald's revenue. Worldwide, the company took in $28 billion in revenue last year.

The store closings in Russia as well as some earlier voluntary closings in Crimea, the region in Ukraine annexed by Russia this year, shaved a penny off the company's per-share third-quarter earnings, which ended up at $1.09.

McDonald's arrived in Soviet-era Russia in 1990 and was seen as a symbol of the nation's rising prospects, helping open the communist nation to foreign enterprise. While regulators have cited violations of sanitation rules by McDonald's, the timing and scope of the closings were seen as a response to Western sanctions against Russia.

The Pushkin Square restaurant was McDonald's first location in the country. When it opened almost 25 years ago, it drew long lines. McDonald's has more than 35,600 restaurants worldwide, with 440 in Russia as of the end of August.

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