Why Restaurants Are Changing Their Menus After Russia's Ukraine Invasion

Back in 2003, a group of White House cafeterias decided to rebrand french fries to freedom fries as a way to signal disapproval of France's unwillingness to join the United States in its invasion of Iraq, per CNN. French toast also morphed into freedom toast, and other restaurants across America followed suit. Some Republican lawmakers at the time applauded the rebranding, claiming that the name change "stuck it" to France, while other individuals and members of Congress found the name change unreasonable.

Mental Floss reports that the freedom fries name only reverted back to french fries in 2006, after one of the key congressmen in support of the new name resigned due to illegal activity. Sixteen years later, history has somewhat repeated itself — this time concerning Russia and any food and beverage terms associated with the country. According to Rolling Stone, restaurants and stores throughout the world have started to avoid any perceived ties with Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, by either changing the names of menu items or refusing to serve products made in Russia.

How businesses are distancing themselves from Russia

Additionally, Rolling Stone reports that some businesses have done away with any language or items that "sound" Russian in order to show solidarity with Ukraine. A Jerusalem bar called Putin Pub, for example, decided to delete the first half of its name, with the sign outside the restaurant currently reading "pub." The KGB Bar, owned by a Ukrainian and situated in a New York City neighborhood that's home to many Ukrainians, is trying to make it clear to customers that its name stands for Kraine Gallery Bar rather than the former Soviet Union security agency. The bar also recently switched out its Russian beer and vodka for Ukrainian varieties.

Some politicians have also advocated for Russian boycotts in their states, preventing "Russian-sounding" vodkas from hitting shelves — a move that has ultimately done little to hurt the Russian economy. As CNN reports, "less than 1% of vodka consumed in the United States is produced in Russia," and brands like Smirnoff and Stoli actually call Illinois and Latvia home, respectively.