Britons Consuming 50% More Takeaways Post-Covid, Threatening Health and High Streets

The appetite for takeaways in Britain has surged by 50% since the onset of Covid, marking a significant departure in the nation's dining landscape.

The appetite for takeaways in Britain has surged by 50% since the onset of Covid, marking a significant departure in the nation’s dining landscape.

Analysis reveals that fast food and delivery services like Deliveroo and Uber Eats have eclipsed traditional pubs and restaurants as the primary choice for meals prepared outside the home, reflecting a profound shift in consumer behaviour. Economists suggest that this shift towards sofa dining may endure as one of the enduring legacies of the pandemic, posing further challenges for the already beleaguered high street hospitality sector.

While the industry remains hopeful for a resurgence post-pandemic, anti-obesity campaigners voice concerns over the proliferation of takeaways, asserting that they are reshaping the high street and posing obstacles to healthy eating habits.

According to data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, there has been a noticeable uptick in takeaway consumption, with the average adult consuming 400 calories a week from takeaways in 2022, up from 270 calories in 2019. Although the total calories from out-of-home consumption have remained relatively stable compared to pre-pandemic levels, the composition of these calories has shifted dramatically. Takeaways now constitute 47% of out-of-home calorie intake, a significant increase from 31% in 2019, at the expense of pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops.

Andrew McKendrick, a research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, highlights the enduring impact of the pandemic on takeaway consumption, noting a “drastic shift” towards fast food and takeaways.

Despite this surge in takeaway consumption, McKendrick notes that overall dietary healthiness has not seen significant changes. Disparities persist, with the diet of the poorest families remaining less healthy compared to their wealthier counterparts.

Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, underscores the prevalence of unhealthy food options on high streets, exacerbated by the pandemic’s turbocharging effect on takeaway consumption.

Lord Bethell, a Conservative former health minister, expresses concerns over the calorie intake associated with takeaways, emphasizing the challenge of monitoring calorie content when meals are prepared by others.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, acknowledges the challenges faced by the hospitality sector but remains optimistic about its resilience, affirming the enduring appeal of dining out for consumers.

As the nation grapples with evolving eating habits amidst the pandemic fallout, the balance between convenience, health, and the survival of high street businesses remains a pressing concern.