Food service sales hit by 1.2% decline in 2011

Kyodo

The restaurant industry suffered a 1.2 percent sales drop in 2011 against the preceding year’s 0.5 percent rise, as it took hits from the March 11 earthquake and a subsequent nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, in addition to a food-poisoning case, an industry body said Wednesday.

The number of customers of food service stores, including family-style restaurants, coffee shops and fast-food outlets, dipped 0.7 percent, while per-customer sales sagged 0.5 percent, according to the Japan Food Service Association.

The March megaquake-tsunami catastrophe affected consumer psychology and caused restaurants to curb power consumption, leading many people to refrain from eating out, the association said.

The detection of radioactive cesium in beef contaminated by radiation leaks from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crippled by the March quake and tsunami also dampened consumer sentiment, it added.

Sales at family restaurants were down 1.6 percent. Sales at “yakiniku” grilled meat eateries in particular fell 7.7 percent, as they also took a beating from a high-profile food-poisoning incident in which four people died after eating raw beef at a restaurant chain.

Sales at fast-food outlets slipped 0.1 percent. Within this segment, however, sales at fast-food restaurants specializing in Japanese cuisine posted gains. These included restaurants selling “gyudon” beef-on-rice dishes, many of which ran discount campaigns, and those serving “udon” noodles, for which many new outlets opened.

Sales at pubs and “izakaya” pubs skidded 4.5 percent.

In December, overall restaurant sales rose 1.8 percent for the third consecutive monthly rise.