First McDonald’s Opens in Communist Nation
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The golden arches spanned the communist world for the first time as McDonald’s opened a fast-food restaurant today in the Yugoslavian capital.
″This is just like home,″ said Candace Hackett of Greeley, Conn., an American living in Belgrade who was among the first customers on opening day. ″I can’t believe American hamburgers are finally here.″
Police were called in to keep order as hundreds of customers waited in lines around the block at Slavija, one of Belgrade’s main downtown squares.
″Both the hamburger and the restaurant are fantastic, and I think Yugoslavs will like them,″ said the 16-year-old Dragan Petrovic after eating his first Big Mac. Five of his teen-age friends nodded in agreement.
There are nearly 10,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the world, but the Belgrade outlet is the first in a communist country. The American corporation plans to open five more restaurants in Yugoslavia in the next five years.
The new restaurant features a plush interior which can seat 350 visitors and serve up to 2,500 meals an hour, operators said. It is set in a neatly decorated, old building that has been extensively renovated with an interior of amber-colored marble floors and tables, soft illumination, pastel-colored upholstery, and modern art paintings.
A Big Mac meal, consisting of a hamburger, Coca Cola and french fries, costs the equivalent of $2.57, competitive with similar foods in the city’s other restaurants.
The Belgrade media has said the success of McDonald’s in Yugoslavia depends on its acceptance by people long accustomed to a hamburger-like fast food dish called the Pljeskavica.
The traditional dish is made with ground pork and onions instead of the beef used in Big Macs and other American hamburgers. It is also served in a bun and sold throughout the country in fast-food outlets and other restaurants.
″In fact, this is a clash between the Big Mac and Pljeskavica,″ said Vesna Milosevic, an official of Genex, a Yugoslav state-run enterprise that contracted the joint venture agreement with McDonald’s. They’ll share profits equally, but the restaurant will be managed and run entirely by 110 Yugoslavs.
McDonald’s will also bump heads with other Yugoslavian customs, such as the time-honored Balkan tradition of lingering after meals. In the first few months of its operation, specially-trained personnel will issue warnings to loiterers, said Predrag Dostanic, managing director of the facility.
The next Eastern European McDonald’s is scheduled to open in Budapest, Hungary, next month, according to McDonald’s officials.