News / Europe

Wendy's Opens First Fast-Food Restaurant in Russia

Wendy's Russia workers pose out side of the new restaurant in Moscow, August 2011
Wendy's Russia workers pose out side of the new restaurant in Moscow, August 2011

Wendy’s has opened its first restaurant in Russia, the burgers, fries and even the ice cream drink make you feel just like you are in the United States. But Russia’s rendition of the company’s wholesome red-headed icon, Wendy, is raising some eyebrows.

It was not too long ago in Russia that choice was a dirty word, as this Wendy’s commercial from the 1980s suggests. So anything American in Russia was a big deal.

Like when the very first fast-food restaurant - McDonald's - opened in Russia here on Pushkin Square in 1990.

"It was an incredible deal. I was here," said advertising executive John Rose, owner of Rose Creative Strategies in Moscow. "First of all you have got to remember there were no restaurants, really, in Moscow at the time; very few brands. The excitement it caused was incredible. People did not have a lot of money, and the idea that they could get a Western meal for that kind of money was something special."

But that was then. Now McDonalds operates 279 restaurants throughout the country. Add Papa John’s pizza, Subway and Burger King, among others, to the mix and that means being an American company is not as exciting as it used to be.

New approach at Moscow restaurant

Victoria Hargrave, senior international projects manager at the Edelman public relations firm, said "With so many international brands here, I think being an international company has lost its appeal. I think now it is more about international companies showing they are Russian companies and that they can appeal to Russians, to the Russian sense of humor, Russian identity."

So, the Wenrus restaurant group, which operates the Wendy's chain in Russia, might be forgiven for trying to make the restaurant’s image a bit more "sexy." The restaurant itself looks the same. The wholesome, pig-tailed iconic Wendy image still adorns the façade and the walls inside.

But at various locations on Arbat Street, is a decidedly different Wendy. The little redhead is re-envisioned as actual female restaurant workers who are wearing short skirts, striped knee-high socks and stiletto heels with their pigtails. The women try to lure customers into the restaurant.

Reaching out to younger crowd

Wenrus Restaurant Group’s boss told local media that given the competition in Moscow, he wanted to appeal to a younger demographic. He said that generally, fast food customers are men between the ages of 18 and 24.

But American Scott Holder thinks it is a shame that Wendy would be given a makeover. "For me, I would personally not want it. I would personally rather keep the wholesome-type image a little more," he said.

"Hey, it is Russia. Get over it. It makes sense," said Rose.

Breaking out from the pack

Rose said Russians are not burdened by puritan values. And he pointed out that one cannot judge their tastes by American standards. "People here dress up more, women here certainly dress sexier. I think that is just part of who they are. I think it is a sexy place to be. And I do not think anyone is batting an eye... except for the people outside," he said.

One of those outsiders who is batting an eye is Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Chief Operating Officer Andrew Skehan. Russian media quoted Skehan as being surprised that Wendy, modeled after the restaurant founder’s eight-year-old daughter, had undergone an overhaul. He apparently found out when he attended the restaurant’s grand opening.  

So was that really necessary? Public relations manager Victoria Hargrave said, "I am sure it must be hard. It seems that the Russian market, especially for new restaurants, is pretty competitive. So I am pretty sure any restaurant coming into the area is trying to do something new and creative to get the attention for a new opening."

American Carrie Holder said she does not get it and does not think it is necessary. "Wow, in the United States we are a lot more prude or modest with our bodies," she said.

Judging from the long lines outside the Wendy’s on Moscow’s trendy Arbat Street the past couple of weeks, sexy sells in the former Soviet Union.

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs