Quick-service restaurants now account for half of all food eaten out of the home, although their rise has been at the expense of restaurants in the workplace and education.
A survey by food service research company NPD Group said the data pointed to a trend of changing habits among British consumers, with a four percentage-point increase in the use of quick-service restaurants since 2008. The rise means that consumers made 5.5 billion visits to these outlets in 2011, compared with 5.4 billion in 2008.
Lunch has driven expansion in the quick-service market, accounting for 72% of the sector's growth and a 7% increase in number of visits since 2008.
While quick service has been growing, the restaurants experiencing the greatest drop are those in the workplace and education - whose share of the market has shrunk by 2.6 percentage points - from 19.5% in 2008 to 16.9% in the year ending September 2011.
NPD attributed the decline in this sector to quick-service restaurant chains offering menu options, promotions and discounts that attract workers and students away from their office/campus and into their restaurants.
Guy Fielding, NPD's director of food service for Europe, said he believed consumers in the capital were also a key influence in the growth of the quick-service sector. "Consumers in London spent 7% more in restaurants this year and it is the quick-service restaurants, serving burgers, ethnic dishes and chicken, that have led that growth.
"It's also about the quick-service restaurants giving Londoners a good deal. Meal deals and promotions account for 27% of spend at commercial restaurants in London, but they accounted for 100% of the growth. Consumers in London may eat out more than in other areas of the country, but only when the deal is right," Fielding said.
NPD's research also shows that consumers in London were more likely (55%) to visit quick-service restaurants, when compared with 49.5% for consumers in the rest of the country.
By Neil Gerrard
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