From laptops on every table at Starbucks to businesspeople wheeling and dealing on smartphones at white-tablecloth eateries, the digital universe has become a real part of the restaurant experience. A few restaurants try to fight it, but most are finding ways to make it easier for patrons to phone, text and otherwise connect with the virtual world.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the issue of loud cellphone talkers at restaurants, a hotly debated issue in recent years, has shifted a bit now that most people have a smartphone. Instead of talking, they’re texting, Googling, Facebooking and otherwise populating the room with beeps and clicks, while other diners snap and send photos of each dish.

Some fine-dining eateries abhor the digital distraction, including Patina, where a request to turn off cellphones in the dining room is printed on the menu. Others accept it as reality, and some even cater to it, according to the Times. (read more…)

After competing against three other finalists, Richard Rosendale emerged as the winner of the Bocuse d’Or USA culinary competition. Rosendale will go on to represent the U.S. in the international Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyons, France, next year.

Rosendale is the executive chef of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where he specializes in serving classic dishes with impeccable presentation. The Pennsylvania native has trained extensively in Europe and in 2010 was awarded the title of Certified Master Chef. He returned to Bocuse d’Or USA this year after taking second place in 2008.

The other finalists — Bill Bradley, Danny Cerqueda and Jeffrey Lizotte — also boast impressive culinary backgrounds. Bradley is a chef instructor at Massachusetts’ prestigious Le Cordon Bleu; Cerqueda works as an executive sous chef at the Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, N.C.; and Lizotte is a chef at ON2O in Hartford, Conn. (read more…)

Smashburger succeeds with social media; quickservice chains come up with more options for the morning; and some Starbucks locations will offer more than a caffeine buzz.

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

Image credit: narvikk, via iStockphoto (read more…)

The Daily Meal’s second annual ranking of America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food was released this month. Colman Andrews, The Daily Meal editorial director, Saveur co-founder and James Beard Award winner, discussed his thoughts on the list and what the ranking means for the food industry.

What leadership characteristics and trends did you spot throughout this year’s list?

This isn’t necessarily new this year, but I do think that most of the figures on our list are people with a sense of mission, whether that mission is to feed the hungry, fight childhood obesity, grow crops more efficiently, expand the grocery repertoire, stimulate debate around food issues, or just cook good food. Increasingly, the American citizenry is realizing that food matters, not only because it nourishes us (we hope) and brings us pleasure but also because its production, distribution and consumption affect the world around us, helping to define both our environment and our culture. (read more…)

McDonald’s reported another stellar quarter, with earnings that beat analysts’ estimate and a plan to open 1,300 units this year, including several in the U.K. Britain’s troubled economy is driving more consumers to lower-priced quickservice meals, and young adults welcome the news that the company expects to create thousands of jobs in 2012.

But there’s a downside to the chain’s growing global presence. The company warned that profit could wane in the coming months because of currency fluctuation, as the U.S. dollar strengthens and the euro continues to weaken amid Europe’s debt crisis. The announcement led to a 2.2% drop in the company’s share price, Bloomberg reported.

McDonald’s likely isn’t the only U.S. restaurant chain concerned about currency this year. Subway announced several months ago that it expects overseas units to outnumber domestic locations by 2020; Chipotle Mexican Grill has been on the move in Europe; and Wendy’s expects to invest proceeds from last year’s Arby’s sale in expanding the brand globally. (read more…)