In the kingdom of gastronomy, has fast food become king? Long restricted to peripheral urban areas, fast food is now present in almost all French localities, in town and in the countryside. To the point of sometimes exceeding 100 fast-food restaurants per 100,000 inhabitants. Thanks to exclusive data provided by the geomarketing company Smappen, Le Figaro reveals the ranking of the 30 French cities in which fast food (burgers, kebabs, tacos) is most established.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not in Île-de-France that the champions of fast food are found. With no less than eight cities present in the ranking (Givors, Villefranche-sur-Saône, Montélimar, Grenoble, Bourg en Bresse, Annemasse, Chambéry and Bourgoin), it is the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region which takes the national prize fast food. More broadly, burgers and other meals eaten on the go are commonplace in Burgundy-Franche-Comté (Mâcon, Belfort, Chalon sur Saône, Dole), in the Grand Est (Nancy, Sarreguemines, Charleville-Mézières) and even in Occitanie. (Tarbes, Perpignan, Blagnac). Only one locality in the Ile-de-France region, Melun, appears in the ranking, in twenty-fifth position.
Fast food is not the preserve of large urban centers either, as one might think. If a few cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants seem to favor fast food (Valenciennes, Mâcon, Lille, Nancy, Perpignan, Grenoble), it is especially the medium-sized cities that seem to love it: of the 30 localities highlighted by the ranking, 18 have less than 50,000 inhabitants! A significant number of them are even below the threshold of 30,000 inhabitants, like Dole, Givors, Alençon, Sarreguemines and even Laon.
“This ranking is not very surprising”, believes for his part the specialist in lifestyles and urban issues Jean-Laurent Cassely, author, with Jerôme Fourquet, of the book France under our eyes (2021). “What these localities have in common is that they have a population that is both younger and poorer than the national average, and therefore more inclined to consume cheap fast food.” The top ten cities in the ranking, except Agde, have more young people than the national average (35%). For Valenciennes, at the top of the ranking, the share of those under 30 even reaches 42% of the population. Young and poor: this is how we could, in the light of this classification, describe the clientele of traditional fast-food restaurants. Indeed, while the poverty rate for those under 29 is 14% nationally, it systematically exceeds 20% in the top 10 cities in the ranking, approaching 37% in Valenciennes. These same localities are also marked by an overall poverty rate often ten points higher than the national average, such as in Valencienne (24%), Mâcon (29%), Givors (29%), Tarbes (26%) or Belfort. (26%).
Beyond their shared appetite for junk food, these different localities are linked by several socio-economic characteristics. First of all, the unemployment rate. In Agde, it stands at 18%: almost twice the national unemployment rate. It also exceeds 13% in Valenciennes, Mâcon, Givors and Belfort. In Rouen, Lille or Nancy, it is the high rate of students (above 22%), which could explain the profusion of fast food restaurants. Less young and less modest, certain cities have other, more atypical points in common: the over-representation of industrial workers, for example. Their contingent is higher than the national average in several cities in the ranking (Belfort, Sarreguemines, Villefranche-sur-Saône, Bourgoin-Jallieu...). Another notable fact is that out of the top ten localities in the ranking, ten have a level of training lower than the national average, with the share of higher education graduates not exceeding 30% in Agde, Mâcon, Givors, Tarbes, Montélimar and Villefranche.
“The other common point to identify is that 18 of these 30 municipalities are involved in the government Action Cœur de ville plan,” underlines Jean-Laurent Cassely. Launched in 2017, the program aims, according to Édouard Philippe, to “bring new life to abandoned city centers, emptied of their businesses, their services and sometimes their inhabitants”. “These are localities in which there are many commercial vacancies and in which few businesses can survive,” adds Jean-Laurent Cassely. Little commerce... With the exception of fast-food restaurants, whose price positioning is calibrated for local customers. “Entrepreneurs wanting to open a fast restaurant find cheap premises there, which is no longer the case in big cities,” says the specialist. “As for municipal authorities, they are more tolerant of the growth of fast food restaurants than elsewhere, because it is a way of revitalizing city centers and fighting against commercial vacancies.” Resistance to the opening of fast-food restaurants remains relatively marginal, despite some notable attempts in Grenoble, Dolus (Charente-Maritime) and Sérignan-du-Comtat (Vaucluse).
This ranking was published using the geomarketing service, Smappen. This software aggregated data from the web to precisely identify the type of catering offered by the establishments listed.