Los Angeles, CA – Russia has ordered the closure of four McDonalds fast-food restaurants in Moscow because of what the government says are possible “breaches of sanitary rules.”
The four restaurants include the first ever McDonald’s in Russia, which the Oak Brook, Illinois-headquartered global mega-giant says is the busiest in its entire 35,000 outlet global network.
Raising an eyebrow at the move by Russia’s food safety watchdog, many in the business community dismiss Moscow’s assertion saying the move is a another reaction to the sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union over the country’s seizure of the Crimea and its incursion into Ukraine.
“Obviously, it’s driven by the political issues surrounding Ukraine,” said Alexis Rodzianko, president and CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia at a press conference held after the move was made public. “The question on my mind is: Is this going to be a knock on the door, or is this going to be the beginning of a campaign?”
The day after the decision, a sign on the door of the largest McDonalds that was shuttered said the restaurant had been closed “for technical reasons.”
A statement released by the government stated that “documents” had been presented to McDonalds’ management and that the shops had been closed for “numerous sanitary violations dealing with product quality,” without giving any details.
McDonald’s head office released a statement to the press saying that the company “is closely studying the subject of the documents to define what should be done to re-open the restaurants as soon as possible.”
Russia’s first McDonald’s opened on Moscow’s Pushkin Square in 1990.
The company currently operates 438 restaurants in Russia and considers the country, which currently generates about 10 percent of the company’s European operating profit, as one of its top seven major markets outside the US and Canada.
Other US companies with operations in Russia are closely monitoring the situation, curious as to whether Moscow will expand the regulatory scope of its sudden, intense concern over “product quality” issues.
That list of vulnerables includes such icons as Coca Cola, Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Jack Daniels, and McDonalds’ arch-rival Burger King.