Burger King's Russian operator 'refuses' to close restaurants over Ukraine invasion

18 March 2022, 06:17 | Updated: 18 March 2022, 08:17

The owner of Burger King has said the operator of its 800 stores in Russia has "refused" to close them.
The owner of Burger King has said the operator of its 800 stores in Russia has "refused" to close them. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The Russian operator of Burger King has refused to close its 800 restaurants in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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The president of Restaurant Brands International (RBI), which owns Burger King and has operated its restaurants in Russia for a decade in a joint venture which includes Alexander Kolobov, said the company was attempting to withdraw from the Russian market.

However, "complicated" agreements with overseas partners meant it was unable to walk away.

RBI president David Shear wrote in an open letter to employees: "We contacted the main operator of the business and demanded the suspension of Burger King restaurant operations in Russia. He has refused to do so.

"We suspended all corporate support for the Russian market, including operations, marketing, and supply chain support in addition to refusing approvals for new investment and expansion."

Mr Shear added that any changes "would ultimately require the support of Russian authorities on the ground and we know that practically will not happen any time soon".

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The joint venture in the east, which RBI owns 15 per cent of, also includes a Ukrainian investment fund and VTB Capital - an affiliate of Russia's second-largest financial institution VTB Bank.

VTB Bank is one of the banks to have sanctioned by the UK, the US and several European countries over the invasion.

Mr Shear said: "We committed to redirecting any profits we receive from the business, including our ownership stake, to the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) and made an immediate donation of 1 million dollars (£760,000) toward that commitment. We've also worked with franchisees from more than 25 countries to distribute 2 million dollars (£1.5m) of free meal coupons for Burger King restaurants to NGOs supporting Ukrainian refugees."

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald's and Starbucks are among the food and drink chains to have suspended business in Russia.

It comes in response to the country's invasion in Ukraine, which is showing few signs of slowing down.

Peace talks between the two countries are ongoing, with both sides suggesting progress is slowly being made.