After 6 Months, McDonald's Is Finally Reopening In Ukraine

More than five months after making the decision to pause its business in Ukraine, McDonald's has announced it will begin a phased reopening of its restaurants in parts of the war-torn country, citing worker requests and a desire to "support a small but important sense of normalcy."

The New York Times notes that McDonald's halted business at its 109 Ukrainian stores following Russia's February invasion of the country as thousands of civilians fled their homes for the western portion of the country for neighboring nations. While the war has continued, fighting has been largely contained to the south and eastern regions of the country, with some traces of normal life returning to the capital, Kyiv.

As a result, McDonald's said many employees in Ukraine have "expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants" reopen. The brand, which during its closure has continued to pay employees, established an employee relief fund for those seeking refuge from the war, and used its network of Ronald McDonald House charities in the country and eastern Europe to provide medical supplies to hospitals and military personnel, says that its "number one priority" is still "supporting our people in Ukraine."

Although the statement did not say how many restaurants will be reopened or give a specific timetable, the brand said the focus will be on reopening stores in Kyiv and the western region of Ukraine over the coming months.

Moving forward

McDonald's decision to start reopening its Ukrainian stores comes on the heels of its move to permanently shutter its Russian locations in May, a dramatic move by the company famous for becoming the first American chain to open in the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. The company sold its stores to a local tycoon who reopened them under a new name this summer, though the new venture has faced problems including moldy buns and a shortage of French fries (per The Mirror).

Reuters reports the move also follows Yum! Brands' news in July that most of its Ukrainian stores had reopened. While McDonald's seems to be following Yum's lead on reopening in Ukraine, the owner of Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell took a note from McDonald's and is in the process of selling its Russian locations to franchisees who will rebrand them. Yum Brands' statement in July announcing the reopening of the Ukrainian stores noted that it was still negotiating a deal to sell the Russian branches of KFC, while Pizza Hut had recently reached a deal.

It is unclear how much money the brands have lost due to the war, though CNN Business reported in April that shuttering the Ukrainian and Russian stores had cost McDonald's $127 million in the first quarter of 2022. While the future is still uncertain in Ukraine, perhaps the coming reopening will provide both the restaurant industry and remaining civilians with some restored normalcy.