A Mintel survey showed that Britain will spend a total of pounds 2.7bn on fast food this year - not including the traditional fish and chips.
Of the four European countries which were evaluated, only Germany came close with an estimated pounds 2bn. The French spend pounds 1.6bn and Spain and Italy only about pounds 700m and pounds 310m respectively.
Steve Charlton, of Mintel, said there was more national pride in food on the continent. "It's no surprise that they spend less on burgers in France, but we were still surprised by the amount spent in this country," he said.
"We expected to find that the food scares of the last few years would have affected the market but it does not seem to have made any difference at all and demand is still growing."
McDonald's and Burger King are each hoping to open 100 restaurants this year and the same number next year, and Pizza Hut is planning for 100 new outlets by 2001. A spokesman for KFC, which currently operates 430 stores in Britain, said it wanted to have 1,000 within the next five years.
Competition for the fast food market is intense and new products are constantly being launched. In a blatant attempt to cash in on the nation's love of Indian food, Burger King has this week launched a curry burger. And Pizza Hut "is proud to introduce its latest innovation" - the Italian pizza.
Despite these statistics, all the fast-food firms remain convinced that the British appetite for junk food is a long way from saturation point. When KFC reaches its current target of 1,000 outlets. it will not be time to stop - it will be time to ``reconsider the market''.
A spokeswoman for Pizza Hut commented: "There is definitely room for expansion. In the US there is one Pizza Hut for every 30,000 customers while in the UK there is only one per 150,000."
Burger King, which currently has 528 restaurants, said: "In terms of saturation, the number of hamburger outlets is significantly greater in the US than here, and while we might not want to go down that route, we are keen to expand and are looking for new sites. The high streets are fairly well served but customers are now going to retail parks and leisure centres and also it can be convenient to have them along motorways."
McDonald's is currently the biggest burger outlet with 74 per cent of market share and 930 restaurants. "We want a McDonald's in every community," said Stephen Hall, a spokesman for the company. "Every time we look at a new area, we assess whether it would be better to have a restaurant or a drive-in, and we assess the potential number of customers, how many people drive by, and various other factors."
But to counterbalance all this enthusiasm, Wynnie Chan, of the British Nutrition Foundation, warned against eating too many burgers and pizzas. "As a nation we don't take enough exercise, and eat too much fat, which is why obesity is going along the US route. The proportion of burger to bun is not right and we would advise eating a plain, thick crust pizza which has a better ratio of base to topping than the thin crust.
"We need to reduce our fat intake and this food should only be eaten occasionally. It just does not contain enough vegetables to make it part of a balanced diet."
There are 950 UK outlets of McDonalds, and the company claims to have 74 per cent of the burger market.
Burger King has 528 UK outlets. It has 320,000 employees worldwide with 16,380 in the UK.
There is one Pizza Hut restaurant per 30,000 people in the US and one per 45,000 in Australia. In Britain there is one for every 150,000.
Pizza Hut has 400 UK stores and employs 14,400 staff. The company sells an average of 3 million stuffed crust pizzas a week.
Pizza Hut uses more than 700 million pounds of pepperoni slices on their pizzas every year.
Britons eat more than 600,000 pizzas a year. A 200g portion of cheese and tomato pizza has 24g of fat.
A Burger King Whopper weighs 258g and has 36g of fat - half the amount a woman needs. A man should have around 90g a day.
Three and a half million Whoppers are sold in Burger King UK every day, and 91 million people visit every year. Burger King has just launched a curry burger.Reuse content