The fast food generation: A third of children use food delivery services every week

  • 59 per cent of parents think fast food is too easily accessible
  • Nearly all GPs (97 per cent) would support a move to ban the sale of fast food to children to help tackle obesity and diabetes in young people
  • On average parents are ordering 53 takeaways a year and their children order 42
  • 76 per cent of children eat out at fast food outlets and restaurants at least once a week

Nearly a third of Britain’s children are using food delivery services every week, reveals new research from Direct Line Life Insurance.1 The study found that nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of children are ordering takeaways once a week, while around one in 20 order takeaways up to three times a week (six per cent) and even up to five times a week (four per cent).

The scale of the problem of fast food accessibility, especially among young people, can be seen from the fact that 55 per cent of adults (29 million) and 97 per cent of GPs2 would support a move to ban the sale of fast food to children similar to steps taken in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, which recently banned the sale of fast food and sugary drinks to children in an attempt to reduce high obesity and diabetes levels3.

Children don’t just rely on takeaways to consume fast food, as over three quarters (76 per cent) actually visit fast food outlets and restaurants at least once a week. Nearly a third of parents (31 per cent) believe their child buys fast food meals on their own, meaning that at least 4.7 million kids are visiting fast food chains alone at least once a week. Children also visit fast-food outlets with their parents (64 per cent), other family members (46 per cent) and their friends (42 per cent).

It isn’t just children and young people who are eating fast-food regularly, as parents are also prolific fast-food consumers. While the majority of parents (59 per cent) agree that it has become too easy for people to order takeaway food, two in five (43 per cent) admit that they use delivery services due to this very convenience.

On average parents order 53 takeaways a year, one every 6.8 days while their children order 42 per year, one every nine days. Staggeringly, 6.4 million parents (12 per cent) admit to having ordered at least one takeaway meal per day using a delivery service.

Table one: Number of takeaways for parents and children

Number of takeaways

Percentage of children under 18*

Percentage of parents

Once a day

 1 per cent

2 per cent

4-5 times a week

4 per cent

4 per cent

2-3 times a week

6 per cent

11 per cent

Once a week

19 per cent

18 per cent

4-5 times a month

11 per cent

13 per cent

2-3 times a month

13 per cent

17 per cent

Once a month

9 per cent

15 per cent

Once every 2-3 months

5 per cent

5 per cent

Once every 4-5 months

2 per cent

2 per cent

Over every 6 months or less

2 per cent

3 per cent

Source: Direct Line Life Insurance 2020

*Data taken from the eldest child, assuming that their siblings will follow the same pattern4

Young parents under 35 years old order the highest number of takeaways at 64 per year, equating to one every six days. The children of younger parents unsurprisingly also consume the highest number of takeaways at 48 a year, averaging one every eight days. Parents aged between 35-54 and their children consume an average of one takeaway every eight and ten days respectively.

Over 12 million people (23 per cent of all adults) admit that they used delivery services for takeaways more during lockdown. The age group that has increased its use of food delivery services over lockdown is 18-35 year olds, with a third (33 per cent, or 4.8 million people) stating that they had ordered more takeaways.

Direct Line’s research shows that people are still trying to be health conscious, with two-fifths (40 per cent) saying that ordering a delivery from a restaurant rather than a fast-food outlet allows them to eat healthier options. Nearly half (48 per cent) of those who use delivery services believe restaurants now offer healthier options than before.

Chloe Couper, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented: “Fast food outlets are now accessible from anywhere. All you need is a delivery app and food can arrive within minutes, meaning temptation is there for parents and children alike. While it can be tricky for parents to keep track of what their children are eating when they are out of sight, access to so much fast food may have serious negative health consequences.

“Direct Line Life Insurance (provided by AIG) gives customers access to the Smart Health online app, allowing them to keep track of their health with nutritional consultations for the whole family and an online fitness programme. Smart Health also provides customers with unlimited, 24-hour access to health services such as UK-based virtual GPs and mental health support.”

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Notes to Editors

1 Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults between 25th- 28th August 2020 

2 Research conducted by Pure Profile among 100 General Practitioners, September 2020


4 ‘Children’ in this release refer to the eldest child of parents surveyed

For further information please contact:

Naomi Kombe

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651832895

Email: [email protected]


Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel, pet and life insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line life insurance policies are underwritten by AIG, part of the American International Group UK Limited, registered office: The AIG Building, 58 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 4AB. American International Group UK Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority (FRN number 781109. You can check the FCA register at or call the FCA on 0800 111 6768.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0800 077 8297 or visiting