McDonald's may have a new Russian competitor

Wikimedia CommonsNikita Mikhalkov with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the set of the movie Burnt by the Sun 2 in Leningrad Oblast on 13 May 2008.

MOSCOW (AP) — Two of Russia’s best-known movie directors are aiming to create a chain of fast-food restaurants that would be an alternative to Western-style operations such as McDonald’s.

The move by Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky, who are brothers, comes amid growing animosity toward the West, especially the United States, over the conflict in Ukraine. But even before those tensions emerged, many Russians watched uneasily as Western fast-food outlets spread vigorously.

Mikhalkov and Konchalovsky proposed the project, called “Eat at Home,” in a letter to President Vladimir Putin last month that said the goal was “the creation of an alternative to Western fast-food chains,” the newspaper Kommersant reported.

The business news agency RBC reported Thursday that the government will back a bank loan of 680 million rubles ($US13 million) for the project.

Mikhalkov gained international recognition with the 1994 film “Burnt by the Sun,” which won the 1994 Academy Award for best foreign film. In recent years he has been a vocal supporter of Putin.

AP796735879646RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service/APRussian President Vladimir Putin, center, attends the unveiling ceremony of the monument to Sergei Mikhalko in Moscow, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. At left back is film director Andrei Konchalovsky, second left back is film director and actor Nikita Mikhalkov.

Konchalovsky spent years in the United States and his Hollywood films include “Tango and Cash.”

They are sons of Sergei Mikhalkov, who wrote both the lyrics for the Soviet national anthem, and for the Russian national anthem when the Soviet-era music was restored in 2001.

As tensions with the United States grew in the Ukraine crisis, several McDonald’s outlets were temporarily closed on the grounds of health violations, including the vast unit on Moscow’s Pushkin Square that had been a huge sensation when it was the first of the company’s restaurants in the Soviet Union.

After the USSR’s collapse, many other Western fast-food chains entered the Russian market, aiming to tap pent-up consumer demand. Although some local chains have established strong operations, foreign chains such as KFC, Burger King and Cinnabon are widespread in shopping-center food courts.

Konchalovsky said the idea of starting a fast-food chain had been percolating in his mind for years, but that the Western sanctions imposed against Russia over Ukraine solidified his concept.

However, he denied suggestions that the chain aimed to supplant Western fast food.

“We don’t intend to ruin anyone,” he said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. “That would be the same as fighting with Hollywood, fighting with McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s operation in Russia regarded the plans with outward equanimity.

“There’s big potential in the food market in our country. And it’s good that more choices will appear for people,” the Tass news agency quoted a McDonald’s spokesperson as saying.

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