About the Project

Citizens of the Russian Federation have complex and conflicting thoughts about America, but their attitudes towards American chain restaurants can be collectively summarized as being positive and approving. Since the Soviet Union’s first and also the last McDonalds opened in Moscow in 1990, Russian people have embraced a variety of American restaurant chains with curiosity, acceptance, and appreciation. Two years ago, Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District saw its long-awaited first American fast food chain restaurant, KFC, open in Vladivostok. Local media celebrated this U.S. fast food chain’s arrival by devoting much room in front pages to KFC-related reportage. Local eaters celebrated so by flocking to the restaurant and sharing pictures of trying authentic American fast food on Instagram. Such celebration occurred against the backdrop of increasing bilateral tensions between U.S. and Russia over conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and ordinary Russian people's complex perception of capitalist America.

Russia has become a magnet for U.S. fast-food chains. The most iconic American fast food chain, McDonald’s, has more than 650 stores in Russia. As seen in the choropleth map to the right, Russia is among the top ten largest marketplaces of McDonald’s globally. In general, many American restaurant chains expanded fast in European Russia and some moved farther inland into less populous areas in Asiatic Russia. KFC, for instance, has taken hold in areas as far as in Siberia and the Far East.

U.S. fast food chains have given many Russians a taste of globalization. The process, by which U.S. chain restaurants and Russian consumers came into contact, was temporally and geospatially uneven. The When and Where pages of this project offer some glimpses into the three U.S. brands’ temporal expansion and geographic distribution across Russia. Muscovites welcomed Russia’s first McDonald’s with a long queue outside of the restaurant 30 years ago. In Moscow 30 years later, U.S. fast food chains are already part of local residents’ everyday food scene, hardly anything exciting or novel. Yet in places with no U.S. fast food footprint, announcements of authentic American fast food’s arrival still evoke some excitement among ordinary eaters.


The three selected U.S. brands represent three different types of restaurants. Starbucks focuses on bringing a globally standard “the third place” to Russia’s rising middle class. Domino’s Pizza specializes in delivery service, and of course, American style pizza. KFC is supposedly the most approachable restaurant chain that provides the staple, globally predictable fast food experience in Russia.

They also showcase different paths of these international businesses’ expansion and localization in Russia. Moreover, the three brands’ business footprints in Russia offer some glimpses into some regional disparities of Russia’s social and economic development. Take KFC again, for example. When people in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg have taken its presence for granted, the grand opening of new KFC stores in Siberian or the Far Eastern towns can still ignite much excitement.