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The US Fast-Food Empire Expands in Russia

The US Fast-Food Empire Expands in Russia

So while the rest of the world is not impressed with the US government’s debt-ceiling debacle (a Chinese rating agency, Dagong, has lowered the US’s rating from A+ to A), the US seems in little danger of losing its front-runner position exporting its cuisine around the globe. Russia has become the latest magnet for an explosion in American fast-food outlets, says the New York Times:

American fast food has been going global for years, of course. And China and India continue to be big expansion markets. But lately, the industry is finding a growing appetite for its fare in Russia — not only pizza, but Burger King’s Whoppers, Cinnabon’s Classic Rolls and Subway’s barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, among others.

“As consumers have more disposable income they will spend it on fast food,” Jack Russo, a fast-food industry analyst at Edward Jones, said in a telephone interview. He compares the market here to the United States half a century ago.

McDonalds’s monopoly on the Muskovite fast-food market — it now has 279 restaurants in Russia, after opening the first in Pushkin Square in 1990 — is being threatened by Subway, which has 200 outlets. Wendy’s is hoping to open 180 throughout Russia by 2020. Starbucks also has 47 stores.

Fast-food restauranteurs have some advantages in Russia. As the New York Times points out, Russia has a “fast food infrastructure”: malls, highways with drive-through capacity, suppliers of frozen food and packaging. Russian consumers are also more and more affluent, largely due to “the trickle down from the nation’s lucrative oil exports.” While the average salary is $7,276 (versus $43,539 in the US), Russians have more funds available for discretionary spending:

They are unburdened by the hangover of consumer debt that has curbed American purchasing power. Nor do Russians have high medical bills because the health care system, if flawed, is largely socialized. The income tax is a flat 13 percent. And a majority of Russians own property mortgage-free, as a legacy of the mass privatization of apartments in the 1990s.

As a result, the fast-food chains find they can charge higher prices in Russia than in America. The average check at a Russian fast-food outlet — $8.92 according to research by a Wendy’s franchisee here — is significantly higher than the United States average of $6.50.

While describing the lucrative efforts of a former United States National Nuclear Security Administration staffer, Christopher Wynne, to achieve pizza domination via Papa Johns’ in Russia, the New York Times article doesn’t raise one other irksome export. Not a day passes here in the US — where at least one-third of the adult population is obese — that one doesn’t hear about a new study or claim about how bad fast food is for your health. Obesity, and health issues related to it including heart disease and diabetes, is on the rise in countries like Japan and India, where people have abandoned a traditional, far healthier diet and are also more sedentary in their lifestyle.

But no matter how bad everyone knows fast food is for them, people still get in line for their burgers, fries and pepperoni pie. Perhaps the takeaway lesson is:  If you can’t win the hearts and minds of people with democratic ideas and reforms, go for keeping their bellies full?


Related Care2 Coverage

Hungary Introduces National Tax On Fatty Foods

Obesity Rising in Chinese Children (Who Eat Their Vegetables)

McDonald’s Will Include Fruit and Veggies in Happy Meals

Mediterraneans Abandon Their Traditionally Healthy Diet

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Photo by david.orban

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5:59AM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

5:49AM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

sad news

5:35AM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

Thanks for the article.

4:35AM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

While they are at it in Russia, making a pile of money, maybe they could spend some of it and rescue that poor bear, plus the cats, dogs, birds and any other animals which we read about recently on this website... you know, that retired circus bear, and those other animals that were with him. That description of how miserable the birds were, plus those poor cats, 'with their eyes covered in pus, just staring ahead of them'. I have been feeling totally horrified since reading that yesterday, and have found myself praying, 'God, please help them', over and over. Maybe the fast food crowd could spare a thought for animals like that in Russia... for the love of heaven, don't the Russians have ANY animal welfare organisations? Or are they too busy feeding their faces and gobbling down exciting US fast food?

8:53PM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

i dont know what to really say about that i love mc donalds though

6:09PM PDT on Aug 8, 2011

Oh, please save the poor forests in Russia that will be mowed down to make McDonald's Happy Meal and hamburger boxes and take out bags...

7:45AM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

mcDonalds and KFC are popular in some developing countries it's sad.

4:52PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

We're doing the world such favors!!!

11:40AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

So it's none of your business what people eat. If people eat it once in awhile it's fine.

8:32AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

How many more brain deads can the world take. More fat humans walking about all over the globe. More forests being destroyed to grow crops to feed the cattle to feed the burger eating junkies! Sad world.

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