MOSCOW, November 20. /TASS/. It didn’t take long for the reopened McDonald’s in central Moscow to draw in customers.
The restaurant, located on Pushkin Square, opened its doors to the public on Wednesday afternoon after being closed for nearly three months over health and safety violations, a move that many interpreted as a sign of worsening tensions between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine.
Symbolically, the restaurant was Russia’s first ever McDonald's branch to open just before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, when it was viewed as a sign that Cold War tensions with the United States were starting to thaw.
It was hugely popular with Russians, attracting more than 15,000 customers every day.
On Wednesday, the reception was more subdued, said Svetlana Polyakova, a spokeswoman for McDonald's Russian operations. However, about 9,000 customers came on that first day to the flagship outlet.
In late August, Russia's food safety watchdog launched a wave of checks of nearly 200 McDonald's branches across the country. Several outlets were shut down, covering locations from Moscow to the Ural Mountains and from St. Petersburg to the southern Stavropol region.
Many have reopened since, but according to the company, there are still inspections ongoing and some restaurants remain closed after court decisions. Two more Moscow branches — on Manezh Square under the Kremlin walls and on the thoroughfare Prospect Mira — that were forced to close will reopen, one this month and another in January, after modernizing their interiors and equipment, Polyakova said.
McDonald's operates 435 restaurants in 85 Russian cities and rates the country one of its top seven major markets outside the United States and Canada, according to its 2013 annual report. The company employs nearly 37,000 people in Russia, serving more than one million customers a day.