(Bloomberg ) Burgers have become the new favorite food in France, beating out steak-frites and baguette sandwiches, a study released today by Gira Conseil showed.
Three-quarters of France's 110,000 restaurants now include the American bun-and-beef classic on their menus. Their sales have jumped 40 percent since 2011 and the burger is beating out the traditional premium meat and fish dishes, the study showed.
"Protein between two slices of bread -- the French love it," Bernard Boutboul, head of Paris-based restaurant researcher Gira Conseil, said in an interview. "The explosion of burgers is coming from restaurants. It's affordable and chefs want to show they can make a quality burger."
The reign of the burger in the land of Jose Bove, the activist farmer and a one-time presidential candidate who famously accused McDonald's Corp. of serving "malbouffe," or junk food, comes as France's economic slump drives consumers toward cheap meals and ones that can be consumed quickly.
Burgers represent nearly half of all sandwiches sold in France, with 977 million units sold last year out of a total of 2.14 billion. While fancy restaurants now serve burgers, most of those sandwiches are sold at one of France's 1,300 McDonald's outlets.
The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company published sales of 4.5 billion euros (6.09 billion) in 2013 in France, a 2.4 percent increase from last year, its press office in Paris said. McDonald's gets between 1.8 and 2 million customers a day in the country, it said.
Also increasingly popular in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon are burger trucks that draw long lines of customers. Restaurant critics have started publishing their favorite burger venues, including in the national newspaper Le Figaro's edition today.
A 2012 report by consumer market researcher NPD Group showed French people are the biggest burger consumers in continental Europe with 14 burgers per year per person. That's more than Germans, who ate 12 and fewer than the British, who ate 17. The study shows French people eat three times more burgers than they do a regular beef steak.
"The burger targets a mixed clientele, because half of their consumers are women," wrote Christine Tartanson, of NPD in France. "So it's much less divisive than red meat usually eaten by men."
Gira Conseil's study was conducted late last year.