The amount of meals eaten out in the UK continued to rise last year, with the nation's 26,416 restaurants serving 734 million dishes, according to research consultancy Horizons/Foodservice Intelligence.
In comparison, 721 million meals were eaten outside the home in 2004.
Overall, Britons continue to eat out more often than their American counterparts buying an average of 633 meals outside the home each year, compared with 614 in the USA.
This equates to UK consumers spending an average of £1,224 per head annually.
Demand from consumers has been met by a steady increase in outlets, particularly in the capital. Last year's Harden's guide reported an unprecedented number of restaurant openings in London, with 142 launching in 2005.
"There is a long-term trend towards more casual eating out," said Horizon's Peter Blackman. "People are more relaxed. They go for a meal, then go somewhere and come back to a different restaurant for dessert."
Overall the sector is buoyant, agreed Trevor Watson of property agents, Davis Coffer Lyons.
"Trading conditions are good and most operators are doing pretty well. There is nothing out there making the market feel weak. If an operator is not making money now they should really be looking at what they are doing," he said.
By Matthew Batham