The consumer is at the end of a sometimes long and complicated food and drink processing and distribution chain. Within this framework the consumer may be seen as playing two roles: firstly as a purchaser of food from the retail sector, usually for consumption within the home, and secondly as a purchaser of the products and services of the catering sector usually for consumption outside the home. Obviously there is a very close link between these two roles; the more meals that are eaten at home the fewer will be the demands made on the catering sector. It is not the case, however, that there is a neat dividing line between the two roles; while some activities, such as eating out at a restaurant or consuming a cooked meal prepared at home are readily classifiable under one or other heading, there is an increasingly blurred area falling somewhere between the two. Takeaway food is often consumed at home but there is a wide range of ready meals available from the retail sector requiring no preparationother than heating in a microwave oven - a treatment also sometimes applied to takeaway meals. Thus when considering prospects for the catering sector, it is important to keep in mind that the distinction between household and catering consumption may not always be clear - least of all in the mind of the consumer.