More than half of meals that are eaten out come from fast food outlets, new research has found.

Take-away burgers, pizzas, kebabs and curries now account for 50.4 per cent of all meals bought outside the home, up from 47.3 per cent in 2008, the figures released by independent food analysts NPD found.

In total, 5.54 billion fast food meals were consumed last year.

NPD spokesman Guy Fielding said: "It is the quick service restaurants, serving burgers, ethnic dishes and chicken that have led that growth.

"It's a lot about trading down. Because fast food has become so cheap, it has driven families in particular from independent restaurants and pubs to fast food chains.

"Families want to know what they are getting and with the likes of McDonald's and KFC they know it is a consistent experience and good value."

NPD believe tightening budgets are behind the trend, and this is reflected in an overall drop in spending - down to £49.2 billion in the year up to September 2011 from £50.8 billion in 2008.

Posted by Robert Mair 17/1/2011