• The Associated Press

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Starbucks Coffee Japan will offer hot food items at its outlets next month in an attempt to woo back customers, the company said Thursday.

Starbucks Japan fell into the red for the first time in three years with a net loss of 454 million yen in fiscal 2002. It posted a profit of 735 million yen the previous fiscal year.

Adding more desserts to the menu in August has helped underpin summer sales, spokeswoman Naho Yohda said.

The company continues to expect in the fiscal year ending in March a net profit of 50 million yen on sales of 60 billion yen, up 9 percent from the previous year.

Starting Oct. 8, Starbucks Japan will offer apple pie, ham-and-cheese croque monsieur and other hot foods at all stores other than those that only offer takeout. Starbucks Japan has nearly 500 stores.

The joint venture between Starbucks Corp., based in Seattle, Washington, and Japanese retailer Sazaby gets about 16 percent of its sales from food but plans to lift that to 20 percent, Yohda said.

The move comes after an unusually cool summer in Japan saw sales of cold drinks fall below projections across the beverage industry.

Starbucks opened its first outlet in Japan in 1996 and became an immediate hit. But competition from similar cafes has intensified lately.

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