Over twenty-five years ago, the first McDonald’s opened in Moscow’s Pushkin’s Square; the first one in the Soviet Union. On their opening day, they were expecting 1,000 people to come to the new place (a former Soviet café).
How many people came to taste American food?
30,000 people crammed through the golden arches on the first day, making it the largest restaurant launch worldwide!
Whether people were going crazy for the burgers, or for the Western lifestyle (French Fries were referred to as ‘Freedom Fries’), it’s a magnificent tale of Scale, and of becoming Oversubscribed (you must read Daniel Priestley’s book on this).
So, how did it become the largest McDonald’s in the world at the time of the construction, and even today remains the largest one in Europe? We can learn a lot from the set-up of the environment:
- Vision and patience; it took MacDonald’s 14 years to negotiate the deal.
- McDonald’s started building a factory to produce the buns and other ingredients. $50 million later, it was ready a year ahead of launch.
- They then started constructing the restaurant itself. Canadian managers of McDonald’s were key figures in making this happen, personally travelling to Moscow to oversee construction.
- Education: they had to teach Russian Farmers how to raise leaner cows and grow bigger potatoes.
- They held a hiring event where more than 35,000 people applied in what would be the first ever foreign restaurant in the Soviet Union. Around 600 people were accepted.
- McDonald’s invested a lot of time into training; the importance of being courteous and polite, speed of service, and cleanliness.
The cost of a hamburger was $1.50, which was roughly 1.50 roubles. An average salary was 150 roubles and you could buy ten loaves of bread for this money. Yet, on the first day, people formed a queue a few miles long (even Boris Yeltsin arrived), all to try something new.
Investor | Business Mentor at Advocate | Author of I don’t work Fridays