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Fast food dethrones traditional French cuisine

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Photos: zigzagzou76/flickr, James Qualtrough
09:52 CET+01:00
A report released in France has dealt a severe blow to the country's renowned gastronomy by revealing sales of hamburgers, pizzas, hotdogs and other fast food grub have surpassed those of traditional restaurant dishes for the first time.

“In the land of gastronomy, fast food has become the king,” wrote French magazine Le Point this week, summing up a rather surprising change in French culture that was confirmed by a new report this week.

In 2012 sales at fast food outlets in France totaled a whopping €34 billion, outperforming the country’s traditional sit-down restaurants with table service for the first time.

That figure represents 54 percent of the market and reveals a huge jump compared to 2011 when sales of burgers, hot dogs and pizzas etc represented 40 percent of the overall market.

“This growth [of the fast food market] is far superior to that of the whole of the traditional restaurant sector,” said Bernard Boutboul director of the consultancy firm Gira Conseil, which carried out the report into French eating habits.

Since 2004, when fast food chains began diversifying and expanding into new areas, their share of  the market has rocketed by 74 percent.

“That is despite a slowdown in the economy and pessimistic outlook,” Boutboul noted.

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The drive for dominance by fast food outlets has unsurprisingly been led by McDonalds, for which France represents the second largest market in the world after the United States.

Last year the burger giant achieved a turnover of €4.35 billion. Its Gallic rival Quick also saw its sales increase by 5 percent.

In contrast to places like McDonald’s and Quick, France’s traditional restaurant scene has been hit hard by the economic squeeze as the purchasing power of the French has taken a hit.

The report also revealed the French are the second biggest consumers of pizza in the world after the US, eating a mammoth 1.6 billion a year and sales of sandwiches in France rose by 6 percent in 2012 to reach €7.01billion as the French wolfed down over three million.

One possible reason for the switch from traditional restaurant dining to fast food is the change in office culture with more and French taking their lunch at their desks instead of eating out.

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And it appears fast food outlets are more in tune with this trend with their capacity to offer a delivery service.

"What works is to go where the consumer needs it," Boutboul said.

The report also revealed the French are the second biggest consumers of pizza in the world after the US, eating a mammoth 1.6 billion a year and sales of sandwiches in France rose by 6 percent in 2012 to reach €7.01billion as the French wolfed down over three million.

Just over 1.3 billion of  those sandwiches were the traditional 'jambon-buerre' (ham and butter), the price of which is used as indicator of inflation in France. In 2012 the average price of a jambon-buerre sandwich rose 1.5 percent but a boulangerie the prices were found to have risen 10.9 percent.

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