What are thirsty restaurant guests ordering to go with their meals? Most are still opting for soda, according to new data from Beverage Marketing Corp., although Americans drank nearly seven gallons less per capita last year than they did in 2005, according to a story in Advertising Age. Bottled water came in a distant but growing second, followed by beer in third place. Beer also ranks as the most popular alcoholic beverage, although wine and spirits have been gaining.

Speaking of spirits, industry analysts offered some optimistic news this week. Alcoholic beverages weathered the downturn relatively well, as one of the recession-resistant if not recession-proof segments of the economy, and sales of liquor, wine and beer continued to rise in the 12-month period that ended May 31 at both liquor stores and bars, although some economists and industry analysts have different takes on just how much sales rose. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in Restaurant SmartBrief — tracks feedback from restaurant owners and managers about trends and issues.

Last week’s poll question: What do you think about teenage workers at your restaurant?

63.95%: Teen workers at my restaurant should be considered individually.
27.91%: Teen workers at my restaurant need a little guidance.
8.14%: Teen workers at my restaurant are self-starters.

Teens hold entry-level jobs that often put them in direct contact with the customer. Here are five steps to motivate your young workers and reduce the turnover rate:

  • Scheduling success. Use Google Docs or a social network for scheduling. Set up a private Facebook group to post specials or new menu items, and HR info. Here, you also can start a conversation with your teen workers, and they could even trade shifts.
  • Be social. Ask for assistance with your social media strategy, whether it’s having a teen tweet for you, or look at the bigger picture, having a younger team member toss his or her 2 cents in could be a boon for business.
  • (read more…)

Getting your goods out there is important for any business, restaurant or otherwise. Enter new site Peeka.com, which works like an inverted auction. A product’s price starts at its highest point, which is always below retail. Visitors pay for “peeks” that reveal that item’s hidden price. After peeking, they have 10 seconds to buy, and if they don’t, the price drops for the next customer. We talked with Peeka’s Director of Business Adam Trent about the site and what restaurants can get out of it.

Your site talks about the advantages to consumers of using Peeka.com over other auction sites; for example, there is no minimum price. Why should businesses choose to list their goods on Peeka.com as opposed to other sites?

Businesses choose to use our site because our model gives them full price for their products, while the consumers still receive discounts. For instance, we just sold an Amazon Kindle for 10% off retail. (read more…)

Tips for discouraging diners who overstay their welcome; how a new bathroom door can reinvigorate you restaurant; and why one burger chain puts apples instead of toys its kid’s meals.

Read about all this and more in last week’s top five most-clicked links in SmartBrief on Restaurants:

Image credit: narvikk, via iStock Photo (read more…)

Each week, when SmartBrief editors comb through food and restaurant coverage to bring you the most useful, relevant and interesting stories, we have to pass up some quirky tales that don’t quite fit. On Friday, we get a chance to share.

Among this week’s highlights: a New Yorker documents the passing of a bagel institution, scientists reinforce the weighty dangers of too many chips, Eater cracks on flash-in-the-pan restaurant concepts, and a chef gets grief when he charges for environmentally friendly treated tap water.

  • In “The State of the Bagel,” New York Times writer Clyde Haberman shares the grief of many and the joy of some that West Side institution H & H Bagels has closed, as well as the many ways New Yorkers found to share their opinions on who truly makes the city’s best bagels.
  • It’s no secret that chowing on chips and fries tends to pack on the pounds, but a study from the New England Journal of Medicine says snacking on fried potato treats can contribute more to weight gain over time than indulging in many other foods, including cake and doughnuts.
  • (read more…)