There are 38,000 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide, but Iceland is among the countries where there are zero locations. In 2009, McDonald’s closed its doors in Iceland.
While there is no official explanation for McDonald’s departure from Iceland, two competing theories have emerged over the years. The first theory suggests that Iceland’s economic turmoil during the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 played a role. The value of the Icelandic króna, the local currency, significantly declined, making it costly for McDonald’s franchisees to import beef, cheese, and vegetables while maintaining profitability.
At the time of closure, there were only three McDonald’s stores in Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital. These locations ceased operations and were later transformed into an Icelandic burger chain called Metro. Metro survived because it could source ingredients locally, taking advantage of government incentives that made necessary imports tariff-free.
Another theory focuses on the reception of American chains in Iceland. Some speculate that Icelandic people were not particularly impressed with Americanized food, leading to poor performance for fast-food chains like McDonald’s. Icelanders reportedly prefer to support local restaurants and consume locally sourced and home-grown produce, which may have contributed to the lack of interest in big international chains and franchises like McDonald’s and Starbucks.