Fast food overtakes traditional cuisine in France for the first time
Traditional sit-down restaurants, historically a sacrosanct part of the French way of life, have been dethroned by fast food for the first time, with hamburgers and gourmet sandwiches outselling more classic Gallic cuisine.
Fast food swiped 54 per cent of the market last year for a turnover of 34 billion euros (£29 billion), according to Gira Conseil, an influential food consultancy. The figure represents a huge jump from 2011, when fast food only claimed 40 per cent of overall market share.
"In previous years, we could see fast food was gaining ground, but this is the first time it has overtaken restaurants where you are served at the table," said Julien Jeanneau of Gira Conseil.
Fast food's culinary coup d'Etat was down to the multiplicity of new products on the market, he added.
"Before it was mainly sandwiches and hamburgers, today an array of thematic outlets offering salads, bagels or kebabs are strangling traditional restaurants," he said.
The other nail in the coffin of the sit-down meal is the dwindling amount of time the French – long reputed to be lovers of the long lunch – spend on their meals.
The average time spent on meal in France has dropped from an hour and 20 minutes in 1975 to half an hour today, according to Gira.
France's tradition of the three-course restaurant lunch, washed down with a bottle of wine, was long seen as a civilised way of distinguishing the country's well-fed workers from the desk-bound English and their BLT sandwiches.
But another recent survey suggests the French now take just 22 minutes to wolf down their midday meal.
The result, it said is that the French are increasingly turning into a nation of nibblers.
Among the big winners are sandwich vendors, who saw a six per cent rise on last year, thanks not only to the economic crisis but the rise in "higher-end products". Boulangeries, along with supermarkets, are cashing in on the trend.
French employees increasingly order takeaways to the workplace, the survey found.
Gira also announced its annual benchmark price for a "jambon-beurre" (ham and butter) sandwich – the French classic – which now stands at 2.68 euros on average.
Henry Samuel Telegraph.co.uk