Already reeling from a handful of scandals, Japan's fast-food industry faces a new problem: diners are no longer heading out for meals like they used to.
"Japanese consumers are choosing to buy their meals at convenience stores and eat at home," said Japan Food Analyst Association (JFAA) chairman Hiroyuki Kamiya.
While the trend started a few years ago as convenience stores introduced new product lines, the consumption tax hike to 8 percent from 5 percent last April that pushed the economy into a technical recession and a string of employee exploitation scandals have accelerated the trend, he said.
Fast food consumption has been declining since the tax hike took effect, with the number of customers falling between one and five percent every month since April, according to Japan Food Services Association (JFSA). Overall, the number of fast food customers declined 2.9 percent on year in 2014.
By contrast, sales at 7-Eleven – Japan's biggest convenience store chain – have risen for 29 consecutive months on an annual basis, according to company spokesperson Hisayasu Yamane. The expanded "7-Eleven Premium" take away line up has been particularly popular, he said.
When Japanese consumers do dine out, they opt for high-end fast food more often and spend more. "Dinner restaurants," which charge an average of over 2,000 yen per person ($16.93), saw on-year sales rise four percent in 2014, amid a 1.5 percent increase in customers.