Brits consume more food outside the home than anyone else in Europe, according to research from analyst Datamonitor.
In 2004 we spent an average of £312 per person on food outside the home, splashing out in caf‚s, pubs, restaurants, take-aways and on retail. Nearest rivals Italy and France managed £295 and £249 per person, respectively.
Datatmonitor has more good news for restaurants, pubs and take-aways, as it believes the UK average will increase to £356 by 2009, with the number of midweek evening eating-out occasions increasing by 30% over the next five years.
Report author Daniel Borne said: "Consumers now want to maximise their time, and going out in the week allows them the chance to socialise without the hassle of cooking."
Harden's Guides co-editor Peter Harden said increasing affluence had led to people spending the surplus on their stomachs, and although the upward trend was generally good news, it had created fierce competition.
"If people don't like what you're doing nowadays they can go four doors down, whereas in the past they'd put up with it because there wasn't much choice," he said.
Stefan Breg, director of restaurant and bar design company Tribe, said: "With more women in the workforce than anywhere else in Europe, and both partners working, it's no surprise people are eating out more as they don't have time to cook.
"The mistake that many operators make is going down the value route and offering cheap meals, when what the customer actually wants is convenience."