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Wendy’s adds $16 foie gras burger in Japan

Bloomberg News

Wendy’s is counting on its premium menu items to lure customers in Japan, company executives said.

TOKYO - Wendy’s Co. is adding goose-liver pate and truffles to burgers as it invests as much as $200 million on a return to Japan two years after leaving the country.

The Japan Premium sandwich sells for $16 at Wendy’s in Tokyo’s Omotesando luxury shopping district, the first of a targeted 100 shops. “We think the fast-food market here is ready for something different,’’ said Ernest Higa, chief executive of Wendy’s Japan.

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The third-biggest US fast-food chain is returning to Japan under a plan to expand outside the United States, where it got 92 percent of revenue in 2010, after posting losses in six of the past eight quarters. The chain is focusing on the world’s second-biggest fast-food market first as it looks for operating partners in China and Brazil.

“Japan is the most important of the three to me, because we are actually selling burgers here today,’’ said Darrell Van Ligten, international division president. The company expects to expand to about 700 restaurants in Japan, compared with about 3,300 for McDonald’s Corp.’s local unit.

Wendy’s ended a 30-year run in Japan in 2009 after its partner Zensho Holdings Co. declined to renew the agreement to focus on building its Sukiya chain of beef-bowl restaurants.

The burger chain is counting on its premium menu to lure customers, Higa said.

“This is an aging society which has more single people who just want a meal fast, but restaurants are too expensive so fast food is the correct sector to be in,’’ said Kyoichiro Shigemura, a Tokyo-based senior analyst at Nomura Holdings.

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