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Sales at “yakiniku” barbecued beef restaurants have recovered significantly after plunging in the wake of last fall’s outbreak of mad cow disease, a restaurant industry body said Tuesday.

Sales at yakiniku restaurants were down 13.3 percent in August from a year earlier on a same-store basis, compared with previous declines of nearly 50 percent, the Japan Food Service Association said.

The number of customers visiting yakiniku restaurants in August was down 9.5 percent from a year earlier, with average spending per customer down 4.3 percent, the association said.

The food service industry was hit hard in September last year by Japan’s first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Since then, five cases of BSE have been confirmed, the last as recently as last month.

Sales for the entire restaurant industry on a same-store basis fell 5.4 percent in August from a year earlier, while the number of customers declined by 8.3 percent.

Average spending per customer rose 3.1 percent, posting the first rise since March 1998.

The figures were more upbeat when newly opened restaurants are included, with overall sales rising 2.2 percent, average spending per customer rising 1.3 percent and the number of customers up 0.9 percent, the association said.

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