Originally created 01/29/97

Small Portions - High-tech eatery



Burger King is giving fast food a new twist - a high-tech playground designed to entice kids and their parents to linger.

The chain is opening a new high-tech indoor playground at a Sunrise, Fla., restaurant in a few months. Kids will be able to play computer games, maybe cruise the Internet and frolic in a new-model indoor playground for hours. Parents, meanwhile, will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee in the restaurant and keep track of their children on TV monitors.

Construction on the 544-square-foot playground will begin in February and be completed in 60 days, said architect Paul Gershen.

"Parents can pick up their kids from the day care center and then spend the whole night here," said assistant manager Phil Colin. "The kids burn off energy, and then the parents take them home and they sleep."

The two-story playground will cost about $200,000, not counting the computers or equipment.

Jumping on frogs

No, they haven't croaked. But Anheuser-Busch is letting its Bud-Weis-Er frogs take a break from commercials. The beer maker's use of the frogs has drawn criticism from such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which contends the ads are geared to children. Critics aren't likely to be much happier with the frogs' replacement: Larry the Lizard.

Lapping up soup

There's lots of activity in the soup aisle. Canned and dry soup represent $3.7 billion in retail sales. Last year, the category grew about 3.5 percent, according to the Annual Consumer Expenditures study by Supermarket Business, a trade publication.

Much of the growth is linked to health-oriented introductions. Campbell Soup Co., with an 80 percent market share in the soup category, recently announced the most comprehensive new product introduction in its soups' 100-year history. What tops the list? Ninety-eight percent fat-free cream soups and a line of baked ramen noodle soups.

Last year, Healthy Choice decided to challenge Campbell's and introduce its own line of soups low in sodium, fat and cholesterol. Even gourmet lines have gone the more healthful route. Upscale Baxters introduced reduced-sodium, fat-free versions of its gourmet soups.

Shoppers still need to look at the nutrition labels - sodium content of canned soups can be high. Some have more than 1,000 milligrams a serving.

The American Dietetic Association recommends no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day, and the body only uses 500 milligrams daily. Most Americans consume between 4,000 and 6,000 milligrams daily.

Food for thought

Whole Foods Companion by Dianne Onstad (Chelsea Green, $29) delivers all kinds of information on fruits, grains, herbs, spices, seeds and nuts. Cooking and shopping tips, anecdotes and lore and nutritional information are included on many items, from the familiar to the exotic. At Barnes & Noble bookstores.

Cherry burgers

Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese - and some cherries on a sesame-seed bun? Ray Pleva of Cedar, Mich., thinks cherries make the burger, and he has been touting his mix of cherries and hamburger meat on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Late Show With David Letterman.

Milk promotion

Drink three glasses of milk a day. That's the goal of a new public-health campaign launched recently to correct widespread calcium deficiencies in the American diet. The "Drink 3" campaign, a joint venture of health groups and the milk industry, will debut on the sides of milk cartons and on the Internet and reinforce advertisements showing celebrities wearing milk mustaches.