On June 17, 1992, three years after the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, US fast-food giant McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Poland.
Located in central Warsaw on the corner Świętokrzyska and Marszalkowska streets in the former SEZAM commercial Center, the first Polish branch of the American fast-food conglomerate was inaugurated by then-Polish Minister of Labour and Social Policy Jacek Kuron.
The fast-food chain invested up to $1 million to build and open the Warsaw branch, according to reports.
On the first day, the restaurant served 30,000 Poles – a world record for a first day later topped by branch openings in Russia and China –eager to take a bite at one of the greatest symbols of American culture and capitalism and discover what Big Macs and other staples of the US food-chain truly tasted like.
The expansion of McDonald’s in Poland came a few years after the first opening in Hungary (1988) and only several months after the US giant opened its first restaurant in Prague, in March 1992.
“It was a breakthrough,” sociologist Krzysztof Martyniak explained to describe the media and popular frenzy that surrounded the June 1992 inauguration. “After the political changes, Poles could have a taste of the wider world.”
By the summer of 1993, Poland was already home to four McDonald’s locations and as many branches of competitor Burger King, while other fast-food chains – from Pizza Hut to KFC and Wendy’s – soon mushroomed all over the country.
“I’ve never seen anything like it; people who’ve been in the business for 20 years haven’t seen anything like it” commented Harry Grindrod, CEO of Burger King’s operator in Poland in 1993. “We had to open one of the restaurants early to save people getting hurt as they queued in to get in.”
The first historic venue of McDonald’s in Poland closed its doors in September 2014, but another restaurant opened less than two years later next to the previous location. A modern office block was built in lieu of the former 1992 venue.
Today, Poland has nearly 500 McDonald’s restaurants – 14th in the world in terms of locations.