When people think of the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is typically images of jubilant Germans tearing down the Berlin Wall that spring to mind. And of course, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall last November.
But last nail in coffin of Russian Communism did not come until few months later, when McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Moscow. Once the Soviets learned about Big Macs (or Big Mak, as they put it), there was no turning back. Twenty years later, McDonald’s has stores in over 50 Russian cities, employs more than 25,000 people and has served over 2 billion customers. American capitalism at its finest.
McDonald’s marked the anniversary of its conquest of the Soviet Union with a press release and an amazing photo. Here are the details:
On January 31, 1990, a ribbon-cutting ceremony kicked off the grand opening of the first restaurant, located in Moscow’s Pushkin Square. It was the world’s largest McDonald’s, with 28 cash registers and enough seating for 700 customers, and people lined up down the block to get their first taste of the famous “Big Mak.” Because Russian people weren’t accustomed to eating finger food, however, there was a bit of confusion; after pondering his Big Mak for some time, one man reportedly ate it with a spoon, while others took their sandwiches apart and ate them layer by layer!
Despite the cultural hurdles, McDonald’s served 30,000 customers on that first day of business, with half of all sales going to the Soviet Children’s Fund, a national organization that helps children. Since then, McDonald’s has grown to more than 240 restaurants in more than 50 Russian cities. We deliver quality food at a great value to a million customers every day in Russia – our fastest-growing market in Europe – with a total of more than 2 billion satisfied customers since we first opened.