‘This is the grab-and-go generation,’ says Michelle Gass, Starbucks senior vice president.

Indeed it is. USA Today is reporting that more than half the meals purchased in the country’s restaurants are taken to go.

A big chunk of those meals are surely composed of fast food. But the statistic still boggles. Is the leisurely restaurant meal about to go the way of the family dinner? Some think so: “The meal is not something that Americans see as primary in their lives,” says Darra Goldstein, editor in chief of Gastronomica, a food and culture journal. “Eating is something they do while they’re doing something else.”

Casual chains like Outback Steakhouse have helped build the trend with their increasingly popular curbside service: Call ahead, and a server will bring out your piping hot food as soon as you pull into the parking lot. “I don’t even have to put on shoes,” says a satisfied Outback curbside fan. Nine out of ten casual and family restaurants offer takeaway, which isn’t suprising. What is a bit shocking is that three-quarters of fine-dining restaurants do too.

Despite its reputation as the newspaper of the hoi polloi, USA Today can’t stop itself from throwing a bit of snark into the article:

[I]n a nation whose citizens are increasingly too busy, too impatient and perhaps even too lazy to sit down and eat a meal out, more restaurants than ever are evolving into something few could have predicted even two decades ago: packaged-goods emporiums.

I’m having a hard time seeing the appeal. Why pay restaurant prices if I still have to clean up and wash the dishes after dinner?

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