Wendy's burger chain to withdraw from Japan

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2009 3:50 AM

Wendy's burger chain will withdraw from Japan, ending a 29-year presence in an Asian market long dominated by McDonald's Corp.

Zensho Co. Ltd., which runs America's No.3 hamburger chain in Japan, said Friday it will end its contract with Wendy's/Arby's Group Inc. and close the country's 71 Wendy's burger shops by the end of December.

Wendy's opened its first shop in Japan in 1980. The American burger chain was managed by retailer Daiei Inc. until 2002 when Zensho took over the business.

Wendy's in Japan generated 6.2 billion yen ($70 million) in sales in the fiscal year to March 2009.

"We will focus our resources on beef bowl restaurants and others. The closure is part of our business plans," said a Zensho spokesman, who declined to be named, citing department policy.

Japan's burger business has long been dominated by McDonald's, which is said to enjoy around a 65 percent market share.

McDonald's _ the world's biggest fast-food chain _ opened its first burger shop in Tokyo's glitzy Ginza district in 1971. Since then, the number of McDonald's shops in Japan has swelled to 3,720.

Burger King Corp. _ the world's No. 2 hamburger chain _ has 16 shops in Japan. Burger King withdrew from Japan in 2001, partly after losing a price war with McDonald's, but returned to the market in 2007.

Apart from the American burger giants, Japanese enjoy local burger chains, including Mos Burger, which sells rice burgers with fried shrimp. Mos Food Services Inc. said there are 1,334 Mos Burger chains in Japan.

(This version corrects years of Wendy's presence in Japan.)