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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs