Meet Russia’s New Tasty Dot Burger. Same as The Old McDonalds Burger.

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McDonalds, the world’s largest restaurant chain, were one of the most high-profile brands in Russia to exit the market following the beginning of the Ukraine conflict. With 850 locations across the country, they sold the business to their franchise partner, who have now nearly completed the rebranding of all the original outlets and reopened them in the space of four months. They are now known as “Tasty Dot”,  and have a green, rather than yellow and red logo. 

McDonalds have specific technical know-how and IP protections for their various products, and have trademarked names such as ‘Big Mac’ and ‘Mc.Flurry’ amongst others, and also zealously guard their recipes. Lawyers operating on behalf of the company have often hit international media headlines for over-protecting the brand, including one notorious case in Scotland when they attempted to sue Lord McDonald for the use of the McDonald name, which had of course been in existence for several hundred years as opposed to the chains 50 plus years of selling fast food.

While the transition from McDonalds to Tasty Dot has been fast, which is a credit to lawyers on both sides, the chain has lost an estimated US$1.36 billion from departing the Russia market.

The takeover dealt with, what are the new Tasty Dot restaurants and products like? I took a trip to one of the outlets over the weekend to find out.

There’s little difference in fact, although the new logo and makeovers do add a sense of freshness to the new brand – McDonalds haven’t really changed their image over the past 40 years. Entering the restaurant, that specific aroma is exactly the same.

The self-service stands are large and easy to operate – and unlike McDonalds, have menu options in six different languages. While brand names such as ‘Big Mac’ have disappeared, the menu looks exactly the same in terms of content.

The acid test is in the eating though – after all, it is a restaurant. I have read other articles describing the Tasty Dot products as ‘sad’ – but frankly the Double Cheeseburger I had tasted exactly the same as a regular McDonalds Double Cheeseburger. The Chocolate Sundae was also identical. Meet the new Big Mac. Same as the old Big Mac.

American purist won’t like it, and neither will the anti-Russia brigade, but Tasty Dot and the people behind it have seemingly broken the American stranglehold on fast food – Tasty Dot is an almost exact replica of McDonalds, even down to the taste. In part, that diminishes McDonalds’s somewhat as it shows they are not as exclusive (if the term can be applied to a fast-food restaurant) as before. The ‘magic’ of McDonalds has been diluted, also due maybe in part because the brand hasn’t been able to adequately address new consumer tastes in healthier products, while the Ronald McDonald clown these days seems positively, well just outdated and not a little strange, a red headed version of a child loving, clownish Michael Jackson look alike.

McDonalds have jealously guarded the brand and its recipes, the Russians have shown it is just another, fairly ordinary burger. The McDonalds hype has been lost.

The interesting element to this is the extent of how much American hubris as concerns their products has been overplayed. If Russia can rebrand and create identical products to McDonalds in just 4 months, then how does the technical capability in products such as semi-conductors and other technologies stack up? Is the West really as far ahead of Russia and China as they like to suggest? While there is a difference between a burger recipe and IT innovation, the message from Tasty Dot appears to be clear: Russia can adapt and recreate in far shorter timeframes than was initially thought possible.

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