And They Are ”McDonald Free”

Dec 4, 2013 | Pratirodh Bureau

For better or worse — McDonald’s is practically synonymous with American culture. It’s hard to even imagine not seeing the fast food corporation every few blocks. Some lucky countries don’t have to imagine, however. While McDonald’s currently has restaurants in 118 countries, here are four countries that managed to get the company to close shop:

1. Iceland

Well, if there’s one positive to having an economic collapse, it’s that it might motivate McDonald’s to get out. When the economy tanked in 2009, McDonald’s found it impossible to earn profits, particularly since the country’s remoteness made operating expenses higher than in other areas. After 16 years of doing business in Iceland, McDonald’s opted to close its existing restaurants and said that it “had no plans to return.” I don’t know if that was supposed to be a threat, but I can’t imagine Iceland is all that disappointed by the decision.

2. Bolivia

While much of Latin American is enamored with McDonald’s, Bolivia finally got the fast food company to abandon its posts in the country in 2002. Although the corporation tried fruitlessly to turn a profit for the better part of 14 years, eventually it had to concede that its concept wasn’t catching on in Bolivia.

This time, it wasn’t because the country was “too poor” to support the chain; collectively, Bolivians chose to make wiser food choices. Culturally, Bolivians cherish food so seeing meals prepared cheaply and haphazardly didn’t attract many patrons to the businesses. The government didn’t need to pass explicit laws to get rid of McDonald’s; the population’s lack of patronage took care of it naturally.

Bolivia became the first McDonald’s-free Latin American nation, after struggling for more than a decade to keep their numbers out of ‘the red.’ And that fact is still making news.

After 14 years in the nation and despite many campaigns and promos McDonald’s was forced to close in 2002, its 8 Bolivian restaurants in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

McDonald’s served its last hamburgers in Bolivia on a Saturday at midnight [2002], after announcing a global restructuring plan in which it would close its doors in seven other countries with poor profit margins.

The failure of McDonald’s in Bolivia had such a deep impact that a documentary titled “Por que quebro McDonald’s en Bolivia” or “Why did McDonald’s Bolivia go Bankrupt,” trying to explain why did Bolivians never crossed-over from their empanadas to Big Macs.

The documentary includes interviews with cooks, sociologists, nutritionists and educators who all seem to agree, Bolivians are not against hamburgers per sé, just against ‘fast food,’ a concept widely unaccepted in the Bolivian community.

The story has also attracted world wide attention toward fast foods in Latin America. El Polvorin blog noted: “Fast-food represents the complete opposite of what Bolivians consider a meal should be. To be a good meal, food has to have be prepared with love, dedication, certain hygiene standards and proper cook time.”

3. Macedonia

McDonald’s opened several restaurants in Macedonia back in the late ‘90s, but as of this year, none of them are currently in operation. A contract dispute between the McDonald’s headquarters and SJ Company, the business responsible for franchising the restaurant chain in the country, could not be resolved, necessitating the doors to be locked indefinitely.

So far, it’s unclear whether McDonald’s will try to find franchisees to resume business in the country. If they try to re-open down the road, hopefully the former patrons will have already moved on to healthier foods.

4. Bermuda

It’s no wonder Bermuda is a popular vacation destination – it’s one of the few places where “getting away from it all” actually includes McDonald’s. The country enacted a fairly strict Prohibited Restaurants Act in 1977 to prevent foreign franchises from taking over the country’s own economy.

That didn’t stop McDonald’s from sneaking in in 1985. The company set up shop on a US military base purportedly “for the troops” but inevitably thousands of Bermudans started dining at the establishment, as well. When the military base closed 10 years later, the Bermuda government made McDonald’s hit the road. Despite repeated attempts by the fast food giant to return to the island nation, Bermuda has managed to keep it out ever since.