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Russia’s alternative to McDonald’s facing french fry shortage

An employee stands in front of the new logo of the Russian version of a former McDonald's restaurant before the opening ceremony, in Moscow on June 12, 2022. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)
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The recently opened Russian alternative to McDonald’s — which left the country in May over Russia’s war in Ukraine — is both a fast-food chain and a currency in Moscow’s propaganda campaigns.

In a shortage wrought with symbolism, Vkusno i Tochka, which translates as “Tasty and that’s it,” is limiting the sale of fries this summer because it is unable to source enough potatoes, the company told Russian state news agency Tass Friday.

The Russian franchise said it is running low on the menu’s country-style potatoes, its thicker-cut cousin of the Americanized french fry, because of supply chain disruptions in part caused by war and Western sanctions.

The fast-food chain, which opened its arch-less doors in June, said it typically seeks domestic sources for produce. But a poor potato harvest last year left Russia with limited stock, Vkusno i Tochka told Tass, and the company has been unable to fill the gap with imports of the starch.

Vkusno i Tochka said potatoes will fully return to its menu this fall, after the next harvest. Other “main players” in the market are facing similar difficulties, the company told Tass.

On Telegram, however, Russia’s Agriculture Ministry denied news of a potato shortage, BBC reported.

De-arched former Moscow McDonald’s reopens without Big Macs

Countries from Japan to Kenya have reported potato and french fry shortages in recent months, similarly citing supply chain and environmental factors.

But Vkusno i Tochka’s hamburger and fries were also meant to be a token of Russian self-reliance, forged amid the exit of more than 1,000 companies, among them McDonald’s, and rounds of Western sanctions intended to punish and isolate Russia for its war in Ukraine.

McDonald’s seeks to sell Russian business that is ‘no longer tenable’

By the time Moscow invaded on Feb. 24, McDonald’s employed around 62,000 people in 850 communities in Russia, according to a company statement.

Nearly two weeks into the war, on March 8, the Chicago-based franchise temporarily suspended operations in Russia. The $180.8 billion company said it would continue to pay the salaries of Russian and Ukrainian employees and pledged to send aid to the latter.

By the war’s third month, McDonald’s chief executive Chris Kempczinski said the company was leaving Russia entirely. It was financially “no longer tenable” to operate and “impossible to ignore the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine,” he said in a statement.

McDonald’s mid-May decision to pull out of Russia marked the first time the more than 40,000-store franchise left a major international market.

After more than three decades of investment, it took McDonald’s only days to announce that it had struck a deal with a Russian licensee. Alexander Govor, who previously ran 25 McDonald’s branches in Siberia, agreed to buy the fast-food chain’s portfolio and run the stores under a new brand.

McDonald’s is closing in Russia. Its first USSR restaurant was a sensation.

Vkusno i Tochka opened its first 15 venues in old McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow in mid-June. Much of the menu has remained the same, minus the American franchise’s trademark “Mc” and “Mac.” By the month’s end, the company told Tass it had opened 142 branches and aimed to reach 1,000.

Back when the founding McDonald’s branch opened near the Kremlin in February 199o, thousands of Muscovites lined up for their first taste of capitalism in the Soviet Union’s waning months, The Post reported. The 900-seat restaurant was the franchise’s largest at the time.

Advertisements on a newly opened commercial TV station urged, “If you can’t go to America, come to McDonald’s in Moscow.”

Annabelle Chapman contributed reporting from Luxembourg.

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