Bye bye, Big Mac

26Oct09

Add this one to the signs of a global economic meltdown: Iceland’s three McDonald’s restaurants will close next week.

I’ve watched Iceland’s economic collapse with great interest—and great sadness.

Esteban and I have been fortunate to visit this beautiful, remote country twice. Both times we marveled at this tiny nation’s independent spirit and seemingly robust economy.

When we last visited in 2007, Iceland boasted one of the best standards of living in the world. Its GDP was about $20 billion, and unemployment was just 1%. The krona was comically strong against the dollar. (Two orders of chicken chow mein and two beers cost us $85.)

But that was before Iceland’s three largest banks collapsed.

Now, Iceland is struggling with 10% unemployment, inflation, spiraling debt, a devalued currency, and social turmoil. Sound familiar?

I’m not too worried about Iceland in the long run, though. These tough, resourceful people have survived for centuries on their barren land. They’ll survive in spite of the barren economic landscape.

In fact, it seems that they’re already applying their typical pragmatism to the McDonald’s problem: The owner plans to reopen the restaurants under a new name, “Metro,” while using locally sourced materials and retaining all 90 employees.

Esteban and I hope to visit Iceland again soon. And we won’t miss McDonald’s one bit.



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