Business

Russia aims to open its own version of McDonald's with similar logo after U.S. chain pulls out

It appears Russia is working on a replacement for McDonald's restaurants in the country, complete with a logo that looks remarkably similar to the fast food chain's famous golden arches trademark.

A trademark application was filed in Russia last week for a logo that resembles the golden arches

On March 12, a Russian patent lawyer filed a trademark for a logo for a restaurant chain that appears similar to the logo used by McDonald's. (Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property )

It appears Russia is working on a replacement for McDonald's restaurants in the country, complete with a logo that looks remarkably similar to the fast-food chain's famous golden arches trademark.

The move follows the announcement on March 8 that the U.S.-based McDonald's would shut down its 850 locations in Russia to protest the country's invasion of Ukraine.

That decision angered Russian politicians, prompting Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, to address the matter in parliament last week, according to a report by British publication, the Express.

"McDonald's announced that they are closing. Well, good, close down!" said Volodin. "Tomorrow there won't be McDonald's, but Uncle Vanya's."

That same week, a Moscow-based patent lawyer filed for a trademark for a logo representing a business of "snack bars; a cafe; cafeterias; restaurants; self-service restaurants."

WATCH | McDonald's shuts down its Russian fast-food restaurants:

Russians fear country is going backwards as foreign businesses pull out

5 months ago
Duration 2:03
As foreign companies like McDonald's suspend or withdraw their business from Russia and local authorities crack down on dissent, many residents fear their country is moving backwards.

The logo the lawyer submitted closely resembles McDonald's golden arches, except that, in this version, the arches lie sideways and "Uncle Vanya" is written underneath in block letters. 

Uncle Vanya is the title of a play published in 1897 by the renowned Russian writer Anton Chekhov. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "the play is a study of aimlessness and hopelessness."

McDonald's has yet to reply to a request for comment on Russia's apparent plans. But the Russian-designed logo is generating much discussion on social media where some people are pointing out the similarities between the two symbols.

Burger King's owner wants out

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, more than 400 businesses have curtailed or closed their Russian operations in protest, according to a report by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a management professor at Yale University.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed nationalizing foreign-owned businesses that have suspended operations in the country, Russian state media reported. 

But the threat doesn't appear to be deterring foreign companies from closing up shop — at least not yet.

On Thursday, Toronto-based Restaurant Brands International (RBI) announced that it's now trying to sever all ties to its 800 Burger King franchises still open in Russia. 

Burger King's parent company is attempting to sever all ties with Russia after it wasn't able to close its 800 franchise locations in the country. (Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters)

In an open letter posted online, RBI — which also owns Tim Hortons — stated that, as a result of a joint-venture partnership, it controls 15 per cent of Burger King's operations in Russia. 

RBI said it had previously told Burger King's franchise manager, Russian businessman Alexander Kolobov, to suspend business in Russia, but that "he has refused to do so."

Consequently, said RBI, while it would like to immediately relinquish its stake in Burger King in Russia, "it is clear that it will take some time to do so based on the terms of our existing joint-venture agreement."

Not all McDonald's are closed: Russian media

A McDonald's restaurant in Moscow sports its trademark logo in the window. This photo was taken on Jan. 30, 2020. McDonald's announced last week it is shutting its 850 locations in Russia. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

According to Russian media, McDonald's is also having problems closing its franchise operations in the country. Last week, the chain told CBC News it would shut all its 850 restaurants, including its small number of franchise-owned locations. 

But Russian news outlet RIA Novosti reported on Friday that, according to a statement from McDonald's, a number of its franchises in Russia are still open. They include locations at airports, the Moscow Leningradsky railway station, and McExpress outlets near Moscow metro stations.

International relations expert Rob Person said global businesses that remain in Russia will continue to face a public relations problem. 

"To have their brands associated with a dictatorial regime that is creating all sorts of death and destruction in Ukraine, that's not a good look," said Person, an associate professor of international relations at the Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., speaking in a personal capacity.

He said, along with economic sanctions, the aim of businesses pulling out is to convince the Russian people they need to take a stand against the Kremlin.

"If there are hundreds of thousands of Russians that go out into the streets protesting against [Putin] as things get worse and worse, I think that's about the only thing that could influence Putin on this," Person said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Based in Toronto, Sophia Harris covers consumer and business for CBC News web, radio and TV. She previously worked as a CBC videojournalist in the Maritimes where she won at Atlantic Journalism Award for her work. Contact: sophia.harris@cbc.ca

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