The phenomenal figures that reveal the French appetite for fast food

France's secret love for fast food is starting to show itself on the public's waistlines, with the country set to become home to 30 million obese and overweight people by 2030, according to a new report.

The phenomenal figures that reveal the French appetite for fast food
Photo: AFP
The French are known for their love of food, famous for having sit down lunches that last several courses and their sense of pride in the country's culinary traditions. 
But fast food is increasingly taking over France's tables, something which is believed to be down to the lack of time for a proper lunch and the arrival — and popularity — of online food delivery companies such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats. 
These are the figures that reveal France's love of fast food: 
€54 billion
Fast food is on the rise in France, with the industry now accounting for a turnover of €54 billion, according to a study by Paris-based restaurant consultants Gira Conseil covered by Europe1 radio.
That's more than half of the total turnover of the €88 billion food service industry, meaning fast food accounts for more consumer spending than traditional restaurants. 
Scroll down to learn vocabulary related to this story
Flunch fast food restaurant in Lille. Photo: AFP
€4.8 billion
That's the staggering figure for the turnover for McDonald's in France in 2017. At €4.85 billion McDonald's has the biggest turnover in the whole of the restaurant industry.
To put that in context the turnover of the next biggest restaurant group in the industry – the Bertrand Group which owns Burger King, Au Bureau, Quick and Hippopotamus – was a measly €1.7 billion in 2017. 
And McDonald's turnover rose 4.1 percent on the previous year showing the French love for McDo is only deepening.
Indeed there are other figures to confirm this.
France is home to 1,440 McDo restaurants. That's compared to 1,249 in the UK.
It serves around 2 million meals each day to French people and around 450 million each year. That's a lot of Big Macs.
That's the number of minutes workers in France get for lunch, according to French corporate services company Edenred.
Now that the much spoken of two hour lunch is a thing of the past for the majority of French employees, most people are looking for something that can be prepared and eaten as quickly as possible. 
That's the number of fast food restaurants in France, with the number increasing rapidly due to a growing demand. 
The majority of these are burger joints and 2,100 belong to a chain, according to a study, which also detailed that the industry employs 180,000 staff in France. 
On average consumers spend €9 on a fast food meal, showing that the French are not entirely sacrificing quality in the name of convenience.
As a result, prices are not as low as we might normally associate with the fast food industry.
For example, while the French might spend an average of €9, a meal at Exki, one of the healthy fast food restaurants in France, is more likely to cost between €9 and €12, while a meal at organic burger restaurant Bioburger will set you back by around €12 to €17 and at another healthy fast food restaurant Cojean, you could even spend up to €20 euros.
Five French words to learn
la restauration rapide – fast food industry
la malbouffe – junk food/unhealthy eating
les additifs – food additives
transformé – processed
les plats preparés – ready meals

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Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?