CHICAGO (AP) – 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 some sense of normalcy and a show of support after the U.S. fast-food chain pulled out of Russia.
The burger giant closed its Ukrainian restaurants after Russia’s invasion nearly six months ago, but has continued to pay more than 10,000 McDonald’s employees in the country.
McDonald’s said Thursday it would gradually begin reopening some restaurants in the capital Kyiv and western Ukraine, where other companies are doing business away from the fighting. Western businesses such as Nike, KFC and the 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 in Ukraine reopen,” Paul Pomroy, executive vice president of internationally operated markets, said in a message to employees. “In recent months, the belief that this will support a small but important sense of normalcy has grown stronger.”
The Ukrainian economy has been severely damaged by the war and restarting businesses, even in a limited capacity, would help. The International Monetary Fund expects Ukraine’s economy to shrink by 35% this year.
McDonald’s has 109 restaurants in Ukraine, but did not say how many would reopen, when that would happen or which locations would be the first to welcome customers back. Over the next few months, the company said it will begin working with suppliers to get supplies to restaurants, prepare those stores, bring back employees and put security procedures in place as the war continues to rage in the east.
While it will begin reopening in Ukraine, McDonald’s has sold its 850 restaurants in Russia to a franchise owner. It came three decades after McDonald’s opened its first location in Moscow, becoming a powerful symbol of easing Cold War tensions.
McDonald’s had closed hundreds of Russian locations in March, which costs the company around $55 million per month. Selling its Russian restaurants was the first time the company has “exited” or exited a major market.
Alexander Govor, who had a license for 25 McDonald’s outposts in Siberia, has started reopening former McDonald’s locations under the name Vkusno-i Tochka, or Tasty period.