TOKYO, Japan ? Japanese consumers, who are still experiencing aftershocks and growing fears of radiation from impaired nuclear facilities two months after the earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, have dramatically cut back on using foodservice outlets, according to foodservice market research by The NPD Group.

A 17 percent decline in total industry traffic was recorded the two weeks after the March 11 disaster whereas traffic was up 5 percent the two weeks prior compared to one year ago, according to NPD’s Japan CREST, which tracks consumer use of foodservice outlets in Japan. On- and off-premise visits, which were on par prior to the earthquake, both dropped after the events – on-premise dropped by more than 20 percent and off-premise fell by 8 percent.

“March and early April is traditionally a prosperous period for the Japan foodservice industry” said Mari Watanabe, director, The NPD Group Japan. “March ends the fiscal year for many companies with farewell and promotion parties held in conjunction, and many graduation parties are also planned at this time. The severity of the quake and its aftermath, as well as the timing, has taken a strong toll on the Japan foodservice industry.”

In addition to consumers cutting back on restaurant visits, Watanabe added that restaurants were damaged, distribution physically slowed down and a lack of power caused operators to stay open fewer hours.