News lessons

Au revoir to long lunch

1. Fill the gaps using these key words from the text

tradition skip aperitif baguette discount bankruptcy trade union go bust consumer dessert
  1. __________________ is a situation in which a company formally admits it has no money and cannot pay what it owes.
  2. __________________ is the sweet food that you eat after the main course.
  3. If you __________________ a meal, you avoid having it.
  4. A __________________ is someone who buys and uses goods and services.
  5. A __________________ is a long, thin loaf of bread made in the French style.
  6. A __________________ is a reduction in the price of something.
  7. An __________________ is an alcoholic drink that is drunk before a meal.
  8. A __________________ is a very old custom.
  9. To __________________ is an informal way of saying to go bankrupt.
  10. A __________________ is an organization that aims to improve pay and conditions of work.

2. Look in the text and find this information as quickly as possible

  1. How many French restaurants, cafés and bars went bust in the first three months of 2008?
  2. What was the average time people spent on restaurant meals in France in 1975?
  3. What was the average time people spent on restaurant meals in France in 2005?
  4. What is the percentage increase in restaurants going bankrupt compared to last year?
  5. What has the fall in the percentage of restaurant customers been since the start of 2008?
  6. What was the percentage loss of business in French holiday destinations?

3. Text from Guardian News & Media 2008

The three-course lunch is a French tradition, a sign of civilized eating. While the English eat sandwiches at their desks, well-fed French workers have always enjoyed their lunch at a local restaurant. But times are changing. The traditional French three-course restaurant lunch is in danger of disappearing for ever because of the world economic crisis. About 3,000 traditional French restaurants, cafés and bars went bust in the first three months of 2008 and trade unions are predicting that more will close as people worry about money. The number of French restaurants going bust rose by 25% from last year, and the number of cafés closing rose by 56%.

A well-known French food writer, François Simon, said yesterday that French consumers did not want to spend money. He said this had changed national eating habits and was pushing restaurant owners towards bankruptcy. Diners were now skipping the traditional aperitif, avoiding starters, drinking tap water, not having wine or coffee and – at most – sharing a pudding.

Even the city’s smartest restaurants were getting impatient with smaller orders. In one restaurant near Paris’ Gare de Lyon, he reported, an angry restaurant owner asked two couples to leave because they did not want to order starters. The restaurant chain Hippopotamus is now offering discounts to regular customers and special-offer hamburgers, which are now more popular than French steak dishes. Office workers now prefer to buy take-away baguettes and supermarket lunches.

As problems in the French economy continue, low salaries and rising food prices are worrying for many French people. Regular TV reports show people eating cheap tinned vegetables or looking through bins at markets for food. The restaurant sector has had the third highest number of bankruptcies in France this year, after the construction and building industries, according to one credit insurance group.

The time French people spend eating meals in restaurants has already gone down: in 1975, a lunch out took an average of one and a half hours. By 2005, it was 32 minutes. Danièle Deleval, of the French restaurant and hotel union, said: “We’re very worried. Since the start of the year, the number of restaurant customers has dropped, on average, 20% and we’re seeing no signs of improvement.”

Jean Guillaume, owner of Le Bouquet restaurant on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris’ smart 8th district, said: “In the past, lunch customers ordered a main course, dessert, coffee and a bottle of wine. Now they’re just having a main course with tap water, and not ordering the rest. We had 75 customers this lunchtime, but no-one ordered a bottle of wine … It’s the end of a tradition of going out for lunch and it looks like numbers will be this low for two to three years.” The nearby baker’s shop, however, was busy selling take-away baguettes, and there were long queues outside at midday.

It was a bad summer for restaurant and bar owners, with fewer international tourists visiting Paris, especially American and Japanese visitors. And in Toulouse, café owners complained that customers were trying to make one drink last as long as possible. Even in French holiday destinations, like Arcachon in the west or the Côte d’Azur in the south, restaurant owners said business was down by at least 10%.


Comprehension check

4. Match the beginnings with the endings to make sentences about the text

1. People are not eating lunch in restaurants because… a. … they only order a main course.
2. When people eat lunch in restaurants now… b. … the number of people eating in restaurants has fallen by 20%.
3. 30 years ago French people spent more time eating… c. … fell by 10% this summer.
4. Since the start of 2008… d. … they are worried about money.
5. In French holiday destinations the number of people eating in restaurants… e. … to traditional three-course restaurant lunches.
6. French workers now prefer take-away baguettes and supermarket lunches… f. … than they do now.


5. Rearrange the words to make phrases from the text

  1. of crisis the economic world because
  2. in 2008 months the of three first
  3. average hours of an half a and one
  4. the since the year of start
  5. to years three for two
  6. as last possible long as


6. Complete the table with nouns from the text

verb noun
1 own
2 consume
3 dine
4 work
5 write
6 bake
7 visit
8 tour