This is Why You Can’t Find McDonald’s in Iceland

Toni Koraza by Szabo Viktor on Unsplash

Iceland is a dramatic country with Viking heritage, a rich economy, and vivid scenery.

The Mountain from Game of Thrones is born here, among the Icelandic fjords, volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, lava fields, and massive glaciers. People are 17% richer than Americans on average and have every perk of the modern world. But you can’t find a single McDonald’s on the island.

Icelanders don’t mind fast food, as they dine out every other day. But McDonald’s just can’t figure out how to survive among fjords, volcanoes and hot springs.


The fast-food chain has more than 38,000 restaurants globally, serving 69 million people every day. McDonald's is the most recognizable restaurant brand in the world. The Big Mac, Happy Meal, and the long special fries mark the fast-food industry.

McDonald's is a cultural phenomenon in Europe. Having golden arches In your city means more than Big Macs and Signature fries. The entrance to the first McDonalds in Moscow proudly presents photos of the opening day. The restaurant is a symbol of globalization. The phrase McDonalisation is also making rounds.

The year is 1990, and five thousand Russians flock in to try the taste of American fast food, forming a mile-long line. The waiting time is six hours. East Germany follows in the same footsteps. Iceland is not different. The first McDonald’s opens its revolving door in 1993 to a similar scenario. Peoples are taking vacation time to wait in line and order burgers and fries.

Today, McDonald's is not the symbol of globalization and freedom anymore. The franchise is just another restaurant, holding nothing special for the community it serves. The food quality is questionable at best, and new generations frown upon having dinner at the franchise. Millennials aren’t loving it.

McDonald's is trying to shake off the image of a greasy-arteries-clogging-junk diner, often having to prove they’re actually selling real food. People are not totally convinced the Beef patios and Chicken nuggets come from actual meat.

The health benefits are up for debate, but that is not the main reason behind Mcdonald's leaving Iceland.


Iceland is a special place on the planet with 300,000 inhabitants, white nighs, polar lights, and different global influences. Not only is there no McDonald’s but there is also no Starbucks, no casinos, and no army.

Yet, the quality of life, physical wealth, and overall happiness index are among the highest in the world. Iceland holds unemployment under 4%, and if you ever play Plague Inc, you can see that even pandemics struggle to damage the island.

McDonald's comes in through the grand door in 1993, and almost every local newspaper runs a story about the global brand. 15 years later, McDonald's can’t keep the prices in check anymore.

The financial crisis of 2008 is especially hard on Iceland. The country lives through an exodus of foreign business and international banks. Half of the regular income goes down the drain overnight.

The geopolitical picture makes Iceland extremely unfavorable for any business that requires imported products. McDonald’s struggles with simple ingredients like onions, where a 2-pound bag costs almost like an expensive malt whiskey.

The final decision comes around the price of Big Mac. Icelanders still love the franchise, but nobody wants to overpay fast food. The price of Big Mac reaches $6.36, making it the most expensive Big Mac of 2009. Today, Switzerland holds the throne with $6.82 Big Macs.

The population out of money, and McDonald's out of onions, conclude that business is no longer an option. McDonald's issues a retreat and the franchise closes on the same year. Today, 12 years later, McDonald’s is not even planning to go back.

The last McDonald’s cheeseburger ever sold in Iceland is still alive and preserved, 11 years later. You can take a selfie with it if you ever visit the South of Iceland.

The shops that once served signature fries and Big Macs are now called Metro. The brand is copying off the McDonald’s fame, and you still have to pay a lot to eat a burger there.

Last McDonald’s Cheeseburger in Iceland 11 years later

The Roundup

Iceland is one of the most exotic touristic destinations, inviting billions of dollars each year. McDonald’s is out of the country with no plans of coming back. But you can still enjoy a variety of fast food options.

Domino’s, Subway, and KFC are thriving in Iceland, even though the price can make you dizzy. The regular fast food meal is more expensive than in New York, London, or Bejing.

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Curious Fellow | Founder at Mad Company, and MadX.Digital | Writes about Current Events, Lifestyle, and Money |

Miami, FL

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