Oddly Enough

Thousands queue for last Big Mac in Iceland

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Thousands of Icelanders lined up at McDonald’s restaurants to order their last Big Macs before the U.S. fast-food chain abandons the crisis-hit island at midnight Saturday due to soaring costs.

An employee at Strasbourg's central McDonald's restaurant serves lunches to customers September 17, 2009. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

The world’s largest fast-food company said earlier this week that all three of its restaurants in Iceland, operated by franchisee Jon Ogmundsson, would shut down October 31.

The outlets have been packed since the announcement, with lines at one restaurant on the east side of the city backing up out the door and onto the street.

At lunchtime Friday the outlet’s parking lot was full and staff inside were working furiously to keep up with the soaring demand.

“It’s my last chance for a while to have a real Big Mac,” Siggi, a 28-year old salesman waiting in line, told Reuters.

“With the economy as it is, I won’t be travelling abroad any time soon,” he added. “It’s not that I’m a big fan of McDonald’s, but a Big Mac now and then adds to variety.”

Ogmundsson, who will continue running the restaurants under a different name after taking down the golden arches, said he had even run out of Big Macs for a few hours Thursday.

“Sales have not just gone up,” Ogmundsson was quoted saying in the local media. “It’s gone turbo.”

Ogmundsson said he managed to catch up with the surge in demand and had been selling about 10,000 burgers a day -- more than ever before.

Iceland has been reeling from the effects of the financial crisis since October 2008, when its banks collapsed in the space of a week under the weight of billions of dollars in debt.

The fall of the banks sapped confidence in Iceland’s economy and sent its currency, the crown, into freefall. McDonald’s said the crown’s weakness was part of the reason for its withdrawal, along with the high cost of importing food from abroad.

McDonald’s said it would not seek to come back to Iceland.

In a nearby stationary store, Thora Sigurdardottir, a 35-year old nursing assistant, said she had no intention of going for a final McDonald’s meal.

“Good riddance,” she said.

Writing by Nicholas Vinocur; editing by Erik Kirschbaum