Restaurant sales fall 15.1% in Japan in 2020

Restaurant sales in Japan in 2020 plunged 15.1% from the previous year across all stores, the largest drop since statistics began in 1994, due to the fallout from the outbreak again coronavirus, the Japan Food Service Association announced on Monday.

The number of patrons at pubs and other places offering alcoholic beverages has halved, with many refraining from drinks and dining out amid the spread of the virus.

Fast food chains serving Western-style products, such as burgers, saw sales increase 5.5%, while all other types of restaurants saw sales decline.

Izakaya ad sales fell 47.7% as a number of loss-making outlets were closed. Sales plunged 57.3% at other pubs and establishments serving alcohol, and more than 20% at family restaurants, which rely on in-home customers.

Restaurant sales had been on a recovery trend from the April-May trough of last year, when the government’s first state of emergency was in place due to the pandemic.

But sales in December last year fell 15.5% year-on-year as people did not hold holiday celebrations and other mealtime gatherings due to the resurgence of the virus. .

Earlier this month, the government declared a new state of emergency against the virus. An association official expressed concern that the new emergency would deal a further blow to the izakaya and other establishments that were already struggling amid the virus crisis.

The new state of emergency, which is expected to last until February 7, covers 11 prefectures, including Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.

Tokyo restaurant and bar owners, meanwhile, are racking their brains for new survival ideas, such as targeting solo customers.

At Bar Zikkai, a coffee bar in the upscale Ginza district where some 3,000 books are on display, solo patrons have been seen reading silently while enjoying alcohol and other drinks.

Since the new state of emergency went into effect on January 8, the store has focused more on solo customers and in principle has refused entry for groups of three or more. Pairs of visitors are requested to sit separately and refrain from speaking, except when placing orders.

“I want to reduce the risk of infection for my staff,” said Haruna Hijikata, 32, manager of Bar Zikkai, noting that the store previously had “a lively atmosphere with its employees and customers enjoying the conversations.”

“Many of our clients come alone, and we have adopted a strategy to make it easier for solo clients to read books,” Hijikata said.

Dokutsuya, a ramen restaurant in the city of Musashino in Tokyo, has extended its opening hours to 6 a.m. to make up for lost revenue due to the early closure under the state of emergency.

“We started getting new clients, like employees before going to work and mothers after taking their children out” in school or kindergarten, said Ryu Yamamoto, the 37-year-old director of Dokutsuya.

The measure is “part of our efforts to continue running the business,” Yamamoto said, expressing hope that the early opening will attract more and more new customers.

A grill restaurant in the Shinjuku district is offering a one-hour, five-course meal during the emergency period in order to comply with the authorities’ request to close before 8 p.m. while meeting the wishes of customers to dine at the restaurant. from 7 p.m. It usually offers a nine-course meal that lasts two hours.

“Each of the nine dishes has its own meaning, so there were things we didn’t want to change in running this business,” said the restaurant manager, 44.

“But we have to react flexibly to the circumstances,” he said, noting that the business situation is difficult amid the virus crisis.

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