Japan restaurant sales fall for 13th month

Sales at Japan's major restaurant chains fell in March from a year ago. It was the 13th straight month of declines.

The weak turnover was due largely to the effects of the country's second state of emergency that lasted until mid-March to fight the coronavirus.

The Japan Foodservice Association says sales fell 2.9 percent from a year earlier. The figure was down 19.6 percent from March 2019, before the virus started spreading.

It was a different story for fast-food chains. Sales grew 3.9 percent from last year, thanks to demand for takeout. But pubs and izakaya restaurants saw their sales plunge by 39.7 percent.

Meanwhile, private research firm Tokyo Shoko Research found that major restaurant chains closed 678 outlets over the past year. That reduced the total number of stores in business by 7.4 percent, to 8,437.

The firm surveyed 11 chains with sales topping 20 billion yen, or about 185 million dollars.

It predicts that the third state of emergency now in place will lead to more stores closing.