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'Vendis' To Challenge 'Makdonalds' In Russia

Wendy's -- with a "V" -- is coming to Russia.
Wendy's -- with a "V" -- is coming to Russia.
Just a few months after McDonald's celebrated the 20th anniversary of its first branch opening in what was still (just barely) the Soviet Union, a rival burger-pushing chain has announced plans to expand its own operations eastward.

Wendy's/Arby's Group, Inc. says it has reached a franchising agreement with Russian food services company Food Service Capital to open 180 combination Wendy's/Arby's restaurants in the country over the next 10 years. "Russia is a dynamic market which offers significant long-term expansion potential," said Wendy's/Arby's CEO Roland Smith of his company's move, which is being read by industry analysts as an effort to counter sagging U.S. sales. If a burger run is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's idea of fun, why should McDonald's get all the profit when ordinary Russians try to emulate?

Food Service Capital's Alexander Kovaler, who helped bring RC Cola to Russia and is overseeing the Wendy's/Arby’s initiative, says the first branches will be located in the food courts of Moscow shopping centers. The very first is set to open in early 2011.

A Wendy's delegation is currently in Moscow to work with Kovaler's team on menu planning. Based on taste tests, the spice level of food items will be adapted to the Russian palate, he says, and new food items could be offered as well, to cater to local tastes. But don't expect to see beet burgers or borsch with a side of fries on the menu. "Most Russians wouldn't go to a QSR [quick-service restaurant] looking for a Russian product," Kovaler told me in a phone interview.

Along with adjusting its flavors, Wendy's will also have to adjust its name. Russian has no letter "W," meaning that "Wendy's" will likely be rendered with the letter "V," as "Вэндис." (McDonald's had to make a more minor sonic concession with "Mc" rendered as "Мак"). According to Kovaler, a closer-sounding but clumsier solution -- "Уэндис" -- can be considered off the table.

-- Richard Solash

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