The McDonald's question in Belarus
On November 11, it became known that the company KSB Victory Restaurants that managed the 25 McDonald’s restaurants in Belarus had signed a franchise agreement with the successor to McDonald’s in Russia, “Vkusno I tochka”, to replace McDonald’s in Belarus. This sparked outrage among Belarusians on social media channels. The lines were long at McDonald’s restaurants during its last opening days both inside and in the drive-throughs, as many Belarusians wanted to get a taste of the McDonald's burgers before they’re replaced.
On November 18, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko commented on the matter during a speech to farmers from state agri-companies, saying: “Good riddance” and “we know how to cut a bun in half.” However, he also believed that McDonald’s should be replaced by a Belarusian company.
As of yet, Vkusno i tochka has not entered the Belarusian market. The company’s owner, Alexander Govor, recently told Interfax that the replacement of McDonald’s by Vkusno i tochka had in fact not yet been discussed.
Lashing out against foreign companies leaving Belarus, Lukashenko once again reiterated his statement from mid-November on December 12: that a foreign company is nationalised from the moment it leaves Belarus. According to him, whatever is left after McDonald’s is now “our enterprise”.
Lukashenko said this in connection to the question of Ukrainian, Polish, Swedish (specifically IKEA) and Finnish investors leaving the country. This makes one wonder if the Belarusian state actually has the capacity to successfully (if at all) run all the businesses that are left by foreign investors.
Today, the old McDonald’s restaurants remain, but they are run without a brand and the text outside of the restaurants simply reads “We are open!” The restaurants also have a new menu which has not been well received by Belarusians.
When independent Belarusian media outlet Zerkalo took a closer look at who owned the restaurants, it turned out that they’re still owned and run by KSB Victory Restaurants. The company is owned by “KSB victory restaurants pte. Ltd.,” which is based in Singapore and has two shareholders: Rapid food holding pte. Ltd and Sengermen pte. Ltd.
Rapid food holding pte. Ltd. is owned by Kazakh businessman Kairat Boranbayev, who was detained by Kazakhstan’s Financial Monitoring Agency in March this year on embezzlement charges. Sengermen pte. Ltd. is owned by Belarusian businesswoman Victoria Danko, who is also listed as the director of KSB Victory Restaurants. Danko has worked in the McDonald’s franchise since 1996; she has not commented on the recent developments on the fast food market in Belarus.
Perhaps it will take some time for KSB to rebrand its restaurants but being wary of the Belarusian economy’s immense dependence on Russia, Lukashenko will likely continue to favour Belarusian companies before Russian ones. This indicates that Belarusian businessmen and women will probably take on and play a larger role in filling out the market void left by Western companies leaving the country.
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