Traditional French gastronomy is set for a shake-up as fast food sales leap ahead of table service restaurants for first time.
PARIS, FRANCE (MARCH 4, 2013) (REUTERS) - The French are abandoning long lunches in the bistro for the convenience of fast food, according to statistics published by food consultancy Gira Conseil last week.
"Le snacking" has overtaken sit-down meals for the first time, gaining 54 percent of the market share traditionally dominated by restaurants and cafes.
General Director of Gira Conseil Bernard Boutboul said that the figures showed a historic turning point in French gastronomy.
"Fast food has overtaken table service in France for the first time in terms of sales of meals outside the home. And that is truly historic because the restaurant industry inFrance is originally table service. The French like sitting at a table, there is a social link around the table, sharing, conviviality. For a few years fast food has been on the rise and table service has decreased, and for the first time the two have exchanged places and fast food has won," he said.
It's not all French fries, though -- Boutboul added that the variety of fast food on offer was a key factor in encouraging sales in the country.
"Today we have wok, we have sushi, we have soup bars, we have bagels and so on. A whole range of products even though we were left for 25 to 30 years with a sandwich and a burger. And so all of that is going upmarket to the great joy of French consumers who have less and less money to sit around a table and who are discovering, in moving down a notch, a fast-food industry which is going upmarket," he said.
While the change and new variety of fast food is winning over the French, some traditional bistros are trying to kick the trend by adapting in their own way. Parisian restaurant "Le Mestruet" hopes to lure in hungry customers by offering classic French dishes like foie gras in smaller tasting selections as part of a bargain lunch menu.
While tucking into such a budget bistro feast, the President of Cafes, Bars andBrasseries for French restaurant union SYNHORCAT Marcel Benezet said he believed that despite the statistics the French consumer would come back to the bistro if more made the effort to change.
"The Frenchman is a fan of the bistro. It's part of our genes and it's in our culture. He doesn't get any pleasure from finding himself in a sandwich shop, I think he goes because he's obliged and forced to because of the price and the time," he told Reuters TV.
With Gira Conseil's statistics also showing that the average time for a meal has reduced from one hour and 38 minutes in 1980 to just 31 minutes, it remains to be seen whether the French will have the time to be tempted by brasseries, no matter how cheap.