'Le burger' now normal French fare

Burger sales are on course to overtake the "jambon beurre" (ham and butter baguette), the nation's staple lunchtime sandwich.
Burger sales are on course to overtake the "jambon beurre" (ham and butter baguette), the nation's staple lunchtime sandwich.

For the guardians of French gastronomy, the prospect of being served something as unsophisticated as a slab of mincemeat with a bap and slice of cheese has long been considered nothing short of sacrilegious. But now the tables have turned.

In a culinary revolution, three quarters of French restaurants now sell hamburgers and 80 per cent of these say it has become their top-selling dish, according to a new study.

"Le burger", as the French dub the quintessentially American dish to the despair of purists of the Academie Francaise, has become a feature of even the most illustrious eateries.

Burger sales are on course to overtake the "jambon beurre" (ham and butter baguette), the nation's staple lunchtime sandwich. Last year, the French consumed 1.19 billion burgers, an 11 per cent rise on the previous year, while "le jambon beurre" fell to 1.23 billion.

"Burger mania [in France] is unstoppable," said Bernard Boutboul, head of Gira Conseil, the food consultancy behind the study.

"If it goes on like this, within two years the jambon-beurre and burger will be neck and neck."

However, France is the biggest market for McDonald's outside the United States and was practically the only nation where the chain posted a rise in sales last year.

However, Boutboul said the reason for the burger's success in France has been its spread from fastfood to traditional sit-down restaurants, even top-tier ones such as Alain Ducasse's Le Relais du Parc or Joel Robuchon's L'Atelier.

He said: "The weight of McDonald's, Quick [a French fastfood chain] and Burger King is derisory as it only represents a third of the 1.10 billion burgers sold in 2016."

The French press remarked that the times have decidedly changed. "This meat, cheese and sauce between two baps was once the perfect portrait of malbouffe [crap food]," wrote Corse Matin.

"From basic fastfood to Michelin-starred restaurants, the hamburger is taking root.

"More than a fad, it has become a way of life ... the dish is no longer out of place in any surrounding or decor." However, according to the NPD Groupe, "if in France we have reached 14 burgers consumed per person per year, the UK is on 20, the US on 30 and Australia on 38".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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