Perhaps it’s time to start calling “freedom fries” French again. According to a recent survey on restaurants, the French prefer fast food to their fine cuisine.
As NPR reports, food consultancy firm Gira Conseil conducted its annual survey on restaurant spending in France and found that 54% of total sales belong to the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway. The new fan favorite increased 14% in consumption in the past year, shattering any notion that the French, known for world famous chefs and sophisticated palates, look down on the cheap and easy alternative to traditional restaurant dining.
McDonald’s racks up more than 1,200 locations in France, Subway has opened hundreds of stores in the past 10 years and Burger King, which shuttered its French locations 16 years ago, recently returned to the market.
But some of the reasons may seem familiar. According to study by insurance company Malakoff Médéric, the French lunch break has dropped from 80 minutes in 1975 to a mere 22 minutes in 2011, ultimately hurting the typical leisurely café luncheons associated with the French.
Consequently, the café business is hurting, dwindling to just 32,000 cafés from the more than 200,000 that existed after World War II, Gira Conseil estimates. The consultant company blames a changing consumer for the shift in dining preference. Gira Conseil’s Devanne Julien told NPR that cafés are not able to keep up with fast-adapting chains like McDonald’s and Subway.
Though typically associated with highly caloric, fried items, fast-food chains in places like France are focusing on offering local dishes as well as fresher, healthier ingredients. McDonald’s, also known as MacDo in France, embraces all things French by offering takes on local fare ranging from an Alpine grass-fed-beef burger with three kinds of cheese to the ever popular McBaguette.
Food writer Camille Labro told NPR that some French even prefer the American style of service, and that they’d “rather have an automated experience than a waiter ready to throw food in my face. It’s more relaxing.”