Matsuya Foods Co. said it will resume serving “gyudon” beef-on-rice bowls Wednesday with meat from China.
“We will begin offering it from Oct. 13 without limiting the number of dishes (sold) or time period,” President Toshio Kawarabuki told a news conference Friday.
Matsuya and rival gyudon restaurant chains have been hurt by a U.S. beef import ban imposed by the Japanese government in December, following the first case of mad cow disease in the United States.
The gyudon chains’ heavy reliance on the U.S. beef forced the restaurants to stop serving their mainstay dish earlier this year.
Matsuya said the resumption of gyudon was made possible by procuring beef from China.
China has suffered outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and Japan still bans the import of raw meat. But the company said the beef will be boiled before being brought into Japan to meet quarantine requirements.
It will use domestic and Australian beef also but it will account for only a small part. “Since the import ban was placed on U.S. beef, the price of Australian beef has remained at high levels,” Kawarabuki said.
The chain’s move follows smaller rival Zensho Co., which runs Sukiya restaurants. Zensho put gyudon back on the Sukiya menu in mid-September, using Australian beef, and it has had an enthusiastic response from gyudon-lovers.
“During the first two days of resumption, (daily) sales were more than double the average” at many of its outlets, said Zensho spokesman Shinya Furukawa.
Meanwhile, the largest chain, Yoshinoya D&C Co., said it does not have any plans to return gyudon to its menu until U.S. beef is allowed into Japan.
Yoshinoya, which operates 1,250 outlets, has been one of the hardest hit by the ban, as gyudon was one of the only dishes it served.
Other beef “is expensive and tastes bad,” Yoshinoya President Shuji Abe said bluntly at a separate news conference Friday, when asked why the company is sticking to U.S. beef.
At the news conference, Yoshinoya announced that its net profit plunged 53 percent to 1.93 billion yen on revenue of 58.52 billion yen, down 18 percent in the first-half ended Aug. 31.
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