McDonalds Forced Out of Mall in Milan to Make Way for Second Prada Store

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Stefano Rellandini / Reuters

People queue for free meals outside a McDonald's fast food restaurant in downtown Milan October 16, 2012.

Perhaps patrons were sick of getting Big Mac grease all over their $1,300 Gucci purses. Or maybe the presence of the Golden Arches was just a bad fit for one high-end shopping mall in Milan, Italy.

A McDonald’s franchise that has stood in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II mall for some 20 years has been forced out in order to make way for a new Prada store — just across the hall from an existing Prada store.

But the former McDonald’s franchisees are left steaming. McDonald’s Italy is suing the city of Milan, which owns the Galleria, for more than $30 million in damages, citing that the bidding process the city used to find a rental tenant for the location unfairly excluded them.

(MORE: McDonald’s Next French Foray: The McBaguette)

According to the Financial Times, a number of clauses in the public tender, including one seeking a business “showing excellence in innovation,” prevented McDonald’s from renewing its lease. “We don’t want to fight with the city, but we were kicked out unfairly,” said Roberto Masi, chief executive of McDonald’s in Italy, told the FT. The city of Milan has disputed McDonald’s claims.

The Galleria spans a high-traffic area in the center of Italy’s fashion capital, connecting the Milan Cathedral with the city’s opera house, and is home to dozens of upscale shops including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Stefanel. It was also home to the third most-trafficked McDonald’s in Italy, located at the prominent center point of the Galleria. Determined not to go quietly, the franchise threw a bash upon closing its doors Tuesday, offering free burgers, fries and sodas to thousands of customers all afternoon.

McDonald’s may not have fit in with the luxury image of other stores in the Galleria, but aesthetically it was right on par. There are no outsized golden arches and red banners to be seen flanking this franchise: the name and logo were displayed in classy black and gold, and the building’s grand, sand-colored Neo-Classical architecture is in keeping with the rest of the Galleria’s establishments.

Indeed, McDonald’s often makes a concerted effort to adapt to whatever environment it’s located in. The fast-food chain has a number of upscale-looking chains across the world, portraying all styles of opulence. One on Long Island in New York inhabits an old Victorian mansion to fit in with the area’s architecture, and in Sedona, Ariz., the Golden Arches are turned turquoise so as to better fit with the red rock tones of the southwestern city.

And in the now-vacated hamburger joint in Milan, perhaps the French-fry smell will linger just a bit longer — enough to make the new Prada shoppers hungry for a Big Mac.

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