An hour is more likely to be fewer than 30 minutes for two in every five workers, while a mere 5 per cent take a more leisurely attitude and admit to exceeding the traditional time limit.
The 'fast-food' approach of the average Briton contrasts with that in France where lunch remains a serious business. A substantial lunch of more than an hour is enjoyed by nearly a quarter of French workers.
More time means more money and the French are prepared to spend freely on their food, with the average working lunch costing pounds 2.68, compared with pounds 1.11 in Britain. Standard spending in a works canteen is 86p in Britain but pounds 2.41 in France.
Virtually no one in Britain says that they spend more than pounds 4 on lunch (2 per cent), while 18 per cent of French employees will eat their way through more than pounds 5.
Italians and Germans fit between the lunchtime extremes of Britain and France but the two hours plus 'super' lunch is a speciality enjoyed by 12 per cent of Italians.
According to research into the eating habits of 2,098 European workers, carried out on behalf of Compass Services, a catering company, national dietary stereotypes remain alive and well. The French prefer steak and pommes frites; the Germans, salad and Wiener schnitzel; the Italians, pasta. The British claim to prefer salad, followed by fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, and chips and sandwiches.
Maurice Hunt, deputy director- general of the Confederation of British Industry, said that the results of the study show British workers were more concerned about their health.
'Extended boozy lunches are a rarity today, and the British workforce is shown to be more dedicated to salads than to fish and chips, with more than 90 per cent taking less than an hour for lunch,' he said.
The abstemious British lunching habits were also praised as a way of helping industry to fight off the challenge of European business. 'Being 'match fit' in the competitive 1990s will help us all to be on the winning national team,' Mr Hunt added.Reuse content