Board the bus or train and it's impossible to miss the dozens of commuters gazing into their smartphone screens with the intensity of a meditating monk. It's not Facebook or Twitter gluing these people to their screens – mobile phone games have become the perfect way to kill time, and their popularity is booming. According to research firm Digi-Capital, global sales for these pocket-filling time wasters will reach a staggering $66 billion by 2017. Surprisingly it's not shoot 'em up or racing games that are most popular but games where food is the primary ingredient.
Candy Crush Saga may be topping the game charts with its lolly-based gameplay, but it's just one of many hits that revolve around yummy treats. And teenagers aren't the only ones playing games these days. The recent Digital Australia 2014 survey found that 47 per cent of Aussie gamers are women, while 19 per cent are over the age of 51. With thousands of games that appeal to these diverse audiences cluttering Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store, we've tracked down 10 of the tastiest.
Game: Little Big Restaurant
Review: Keep all the plates spinning in this restaurant-serving simulator. Your job is to get the guests in, seat them, feed them and send them packing as quickly as possible. Sounds just like our favourite yum cha spot, and it's just as stressful as a visit during peak hour: there's always another customer vying for your attention.
Game: Tiny Chef
Review: This was one of the first restaurant-management simulators to hit smartphones, but it's as addictive as ever. You'll manage the entire eating experience, from cooking the meals to learning new recipes and dealing with ungrateful customers. Sadly you can't meddle with their meals, but it's still good fun.
Game: SpongeBob Diner Dash Deluxe
Review: The world's most annoying cleaning cloth gets his own eatery to manage. Parents won't understand the appeal, but kids with a love for this loud-mouthed rag will ensure the SpongeBob diner is a roaring success. Unlike other table service games, the pace is slower, making it easier for the young'uns.
Price: $2.17 for Android; $4.49 for iOS
Platform: Android and iOS.
Good for: Keeping young cooks occupied.
Game: Restaurant Tycoon
Review: Budding restaurateurs have to deal with the stresses of managing a virtual restaurant – everything from keeping customers happy to ordering stock. You even choose the decor and fittings, all while ensuring the budget stays in the black. Perfect for proving you probably don't have what it takes to launch your own restaurant.
Good for: Wannabe restaurateurs with no actual experience of how hard it is to launch an eatery.
Game: Fruit Ninja Free
Review: Ever get the urge to slice through hunks of juicy fruit with a razor-sharp samurai sword? It's OK to admit it. You can't be alone, as Fruit Ninja celebrates the virtual slicing and dicing of organic material. There's something strangely compelling about using your finger as a sword to chop through flying fruit, while ensuring you avoid the occasional bomb that'll bring your game to a close.
Game: FreePlay Food Quiz
Review: So, you think you know the difference between cabbage and kohlrabi? Put your foodie knowledge to the test with this ultimate food quiz. More than 1000 questions cover anything you can put in your mouth, and it's surprisingly hard. Backed up with plenty of fact sheets, you'll even learn a thing or two.
Good for: Knocking your gastronomical know-it-all friends down a peg or two.
Game: Burger Shop
Review: For a game that's all about slapping fast food together, Burger Shop sure is pretty with its eye-catching graphics. Ask any Maccas staffer what the job involves and they'll tell you it's all about time management, which is mirrored in this game. Your task is to put together complex burger orders while the clock is ticking, lest you lose your prized career as a burger-sculptor.
Game: Cooking Mama Seasons
Review: All the joy of cooking without the mess – or tasty meal – at the end. Players must whip up recipes within a time limit, using the phone's touchscreen to prepare ingredients. Whether it's peeling potatoes or cutting up carrots, Cooking Mama Seasons somehow makes menial chores a fun way to waste time.
Good for: Aspiring cooks who are scared of a real kitchen.
Game: Cooking Games
Review: OK, so the name isn't exciting, but this bundle includes four games for the price of none. All use touch controls to replicate a form of food preparation, be it cooking lessons, piglet cooking (yes, really), cake decorating or turkey stuffing. Purely for the younger generations, as it doesn't have the depth for oldies.
Good for: Kids who get bored quickly and need variety in their cooking games.
Game: Candy Crush Saga
Review: We've saved the best for last. Candy Crash Saga isn't a mere game, it's a phenomenon. This puzzle game seems simple enough; just match different lollies together to make them disappear, until you clear the entire board. For some reason it scratches the part of our brains that says “Just one more go”, which is why it's one of the most played games on the planet.