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from "Au revoir to long lunch as French tighten belts," by Angelique Chrisafis,, 24 September 2008

It is seen as the mark of civilised eating, distinguishing well-fed French workers from the English who wolf prawn sandwiches at their desks. But France’s tradition of the three-course restaurant lunch is in danger of being killed off by the economic crisis.

Around 3,000 traditional French restaurants, cafes and bars went bust in the first three months of 2008 and unions predict a further rush of closures as people worry about making ends meet. The number of French restaurants going bankrupt rose by 25 percent from last year, and cafes forced to close were up by 56 percent.

Le Figaro’s renowned restaurant critic François Simon said yesterday that French consumers’ frugality had changed national eating habits and forced restaurant owners to the brink. Diners were now skipping the traditional aperitif, avoiding starters, drinking tap water, passing on wine and coffee and—at most—sharing a pudding.