The pair of brothers are staunch supporters of the Kremlin, and say that the business aims to raise patriotic awareness and drive Western chains like McDonald’s out of Russia. In order to get the project off the ground, they have asked their friend, President Vladimir Putin, to invest around $18 million in the project, writes Fred Weir for the Christian Science Monitor.
Response to Western sanctions takes new form
The brothers sent a letter to Putin in which they offered to provide 30% of start-up costs, and asked for his contribution to a project of a “social and political nature.” The “healthy” fast-food eateries and coffee shops are to be named “Eating at Home,” with the first two branches opening in Moscow and Kaluga.
“The aim of the project is to facilitate import substitution and create an alternative to Western fast food chains,” read the letter.
According to experts, the letter is perfectly politically correct in the current climate. “Import substitution” is a contemporary buzzword referring to policies designed to help Russia develop domestic industry in response to Western sanctions, and the brothers claim that the restaurants would use food from local sources.
McDonald’s targeted: Surge of patriotic feeling in Russia
Another patriotic plus point is the explicit targeting of McDonald’s, which currently has approximately 440 locations throughout Russia. The US-owned chain has been targeted by nationalist politicians, who last year shut down nearly half of the franchises on health grounds.
The patriotic food chain would be funded by the state, but would be run by Mr. Konchalovsky’s wife, actress Yulia Vysotskaya, who already has a food company called “Eat at Home!”
Konchalovsky won the 1995 Oscar for Best Foreign Film for his portrayal of Stalin’s 1930s purges, called “Burnt by the Sun.” He worked in Hollywood in the 1980s and is a well-known figure in the movie industry in both the U.S. and Russia.
“This is a very contemporary kind of business project,” says Nikolai Svanidze, a Russian TV personality. “Mikhalkov has access to ‘person number one’ and can lobby effectively for support. His brother and his brother’s wife will be managers. It’s all being sold with lots of patriotism. Every project these days must be smothered in patriotic sauce.”