5 Things You Didn't Know About The First McDonald's In Moscow

On January 31, 1990, McDonald's opened its first Soviet-Union location in Moscow. The opening of the new location was a massive hit in Moscow, with people lining up at 4 a.m. and lines stretching down the street. Here are 5 things you didn't know about McDonald's and its introduction into the USSR...


McDonald's Moscow Location Took 14 Years From Conception to Opening. The idea of opening a McDonald's in the Soviet Union was first considered in 1976. It would be a joint venture between the Canadian branch of McDonald's and the Moscow City Council and was dreamed up by McDonald's senior chairman George Cohon. During the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Cohon had allowed some of the Soviet Union's sports officials to use one of the company's buses, and he came up with the idea of bringing McDonald's to the USSR.  It wasn't until Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the more open policies of glasnost and perestroika in the 1980s that Cohon saw an opportunity to actually open an outlet. By the time the restaurant opened, McDonald's had spent $62 million on the facilities alone.

It Was The Largest McDonald’s Restaurant in The World. At the time of its construction, it was the largest McDonald’s restaurant in the world. The restaurant had 900 seats with a staff of about 600 workers that were carefully selected from 35,000 applicants. Reportedly, it was expected to serve around 1,000 during the McDonald’s opening day. However, a crowd of more than 5,000 Soviet citizens lined up before it even opened and about 30,000 customers passed through the door that day, setting a record for the number of customers served by a single McDonald’s in a day.


Workers at the Moscow Location Were Asked to Smile Less. When the first Moscow location opened in 1990, the typical Soviet customer service face was not that friendly. No smiles, for the most part, and fairly dour attitudes. Not so at McDonald's, where the staff smiled constantly and were polite to the point that one worker said customers thought something was wrong, or that she must have been laughing at them. In fact, at one point, the management had to ask the staff to smile less because they were making the customers uncomfortable.

The Russian McDonald's Has Several Regional Menu Items. It's well-known that McDonald's offers regional menus in both the U.S. and around the world, with websites spotlighting India's McAloo Tikki or Australia's Cheesy Bacon Fries. Russia has its own regional specialty menu as well, with options ranging from fried shrimp ("McShrimp") to a McFlurry with strawberries and chocolate biscotti mixed in. Chicken wings are also available as are country-style potato wedges, which replaced McDonald's regular shoestring fries when the country's government ordered McDonald's to use Russian potato suppliers.

McDonald's Operates 650 Restaurants in Russia The hype surrounding the opening of the first McDonald's in Russia was lasting. By 1992, long lines could still be seen and people had to wait for hours to enter. The crowds outside the Moscow restaurant did eventually die down a little after Jan. 31, 1990, when more McDonald’s were opened in Russia. The unveiling of the next McDonald’s restaurants were also considered big historic moments. The opening ceremony of the second restaurant in 1993 was even attended by President Boris Yeltsin. It now operates about 650 restaurants in Russia, opening 45 during 2016.