Britain becomes fast food nation

Ben Birchall/PA

Far from taking us back to cooking our meals from scratch: the recession has prompted a surge in eating out, with cheap options like burgers and fried chicken the meals of choice.

New research reports that fast food now makes up more than half of all the meals eaten outside of the home in Britain.

Straitened times have forced millions of households to cut back on luxuries, particularly eating out, but rather than saving money by cooking healthy meals at home, many have simply downgraded to more affordable fast food options instead.

Data from market research company NPD found that 5.54 billion visits were made to a fast food chain in 2011, out of the 11bn meals eaten in total out of the home – whether at a work canteen, restaurant, pub or sandwich shop.

This means that 50.4% of all means eaten out of the home are now at a so-called quick service restaurant, up from 47.3% just two years ago. The term quick service restaurant is used by the industry to describe any outlet where the consumer queues to buy take-away food so this does include coffee shops.

NPD's research also showed that consumers in London are more likely (55%) to visit quick service restaurants, when compared to 49.5% for consumers in the rest of the country.

According to the Telegraph today, Guy Fielding at NPD said: "It's a lot about trading down. Because fast food has become so cheap, it has driven families in particular away from independent restaurants and pubs to the fast food chains.

"Families want to know what they are getting. And with the likes of McDonald's or KFC they know it is a consistent experience and good value."
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