To Russia With Fries

In This Review

To Russia With Fries

By George Cohon
McClelland & Stewart, 1997
335 pp. $32.50
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Cohon, head of McDonald's Restaurants of Canada, brought the chain to Russia, an opportunity he had been chasing since the mid-1970s. Originally he had hoped to open in time for the 1980 Olympics, but after three years of exhausting negotiations, at the last minute the contract was scotched. Cohon started over and after six more years began to make headway in what was now the Gorbachev era. Two more years in the labyrinth -- perestroika notwithstanding -- and he had a deal. McDonald's opened on Pushkin Square in January 1990, with all the U.S. morning TV programs watching. By the end of the day the restaurant had served 30,000 hamburgers, the largest first-day sales in the franchise's 30-year history. Cohon's tale of the long trail leading to this moment, into which he weaves a good deal of his own biography, is not only wonderfully entertaining, but it provides endless insights into the bureaucratic maze that was the Soviet Union and many of the obstacles still facing Western investors eager to enter the Russian service sector. Cohon, as the book conveys, is an effusive, can-do personality. He must also be very stubborn.

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