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Subprime loan crisis aftermath looms at some U.S. sushi restaurants

March 5, 2008

Our restaurant sales have fallen 10 percent since last December, said Yoshihiro Yamamoto, owner of a popular sushi restaurant in Petaluma, California. “Americans enjoy dining out once or twice a week. Average couple spending at our restaurant is between 60 to 70 dollars, which comes to about 300 dollars a month. Expenditure for dining-out is the first to be cut”, said Yamamoto, who was a former CEO of Japanese branch of H.J. Heintz.

A sales manager at San Francisco-based N.A. Sales, who distributes Japanese foodstuffs, including various kinds of seafood, said cities hit hard by the loan issues were most affected.

“Our sales in January and February were down 10 percent from the same period last year. Restaurant in San Francisco are less tinged by the subprime loan crisis, but accounts in suburban cities such as Brentwood and Livermore are devastated.  Some restaurants have gone on sale and truck loads bound for the East Bay are a lot lower than before.”

“Popular high-end restaurants will be unabated, but some are open for lunch now, which never happened before. Real negative affect could happen in the days ahead”, he said.

Ken Tominaga, owner chef of a Zagat highly rated restaurant in Sonoma County, Hana Japanese Restaurant, said he is feeling the pinch from higher fish prices and that`s more serious.

““I can`t tell if it has something to do with the subprime loan crisis, but overall restaurant business in the San Francisco Bay Area is slow. We recorded not only the best sales so far last year, but also the worst profitability in the face of higher fish and labor costs.”

Nishimoto Trading San Francisco branch manager, Takeshi Horii said, “I won`t say this (subprime loan issue) is the main factor of the downturn. Continuous price hikes from Japanese suppliers and the yen`s spike against the U.S. dollar are pushing up selling prices. This has put our business in a tight spot, as well as the restaurant business.”

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