McDonald’s will begin reopening some of its restaurants in Ukraine in the coming months, a symbol of the war-torn country’s return to a sense of normalcy and a show of support after the American fast-food chain pulled out of Russia.
The burger giant closed its Ukrainian restaurants after the Russian invasion nearly six months ago, but has continued to pay more than 10,000 McDonald’s employees in the country.
McDonald’s said Thursday that it will gradually begin to reopen some restaurants in the capital Kyiv and western Ukraine, where other companies are doing business away from the fighting. Western businesses like Nike, KFC and Spanish clothing retailer Mango are open in Kyiv.
“We have spoken extensively with our employees who have expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants reopen in Ukraine,” Paul Pomroy, corporate senior vice president of international operated markets, said in a message to employees. “In recent months, the belief has grown stronger that this would support a small but important sense of normalcy.”
The Ukrainian economy has been badly damaged by the war and it would help restart business, even in a limited capacity. The International Monetary Fund expects Ukraine’s economy to contract by 35% this year.
McDonald’s has 109 restaurants in Ukraine, but did not say how many would reopen, when it would happen or which locations would be the first to welcome customers back. Over the next several months, the company said it will begin working with vendors to get supplies to restaurants, set up those stores, bring employees back and put safety procedures in place as the war rages on in the east.
While it will start to reopen in Ukraine, McDonald’s has sold its 850 restaurants in Russia to a franchise owner. That came three decades after McDonald’s opened its first Moscow location, becoming a powerful symbol of easing Cold War tensions.
McDonald’s had closed hundreds of stores in Russia in March, costing the company about $55 million a month. The sale of its Russian restaurants was the first time the company had “disarmed” or exited a major market.
Alexander Govor, who had a license for 25 McDonald’s outposts in Siberia, began reopening former McDonald’s locations under the name Vkusno-i Tochka, or Tasty-period.