Cola Wars: Can there be more worthless beverages in the world than Coke and Pepsi? They don't quench your thirst. And they're nutritionally empty, except if you require ten teaspoons of sugar (or the equivalent amount of corn syrup) in every 12 ounces of liquid.

My adult hostility toward carbonated soft drinks stems from the fact that I was once a true believer. As a kid, I used to satisfy my eight daily glasses of fluid intake with this stuff--and I had the belly and teeth to prove it. (I still haven't been totally weaned. But now I drink flavored club soda to get my carbonation fix.) In their mass consumer advertising, Coke and Pepsi have always tried to market their product by playing on our deepest sensibilities--emphasizing youth and the need to belong. But when they target the more narrow class of restaurant owners, this sort of fuzzy, feel-good drivel gets tossed out the window. Hardheaded businesspeople are not going to be convinced to choose Coke or Pepsi for their restaurants because the soft drink makes them feel young. Is it possible that they think one product has some sort of taste advantage over the other? Nah, no one believes that. Nor is price a major factor--it costs about as much to wash a glass of either cola as it does to fill it. Right now, Coke is going after Pepsi's share of the restaurant business by using a campaign designed to scare the bejabbers out of food operators. Ponder this ad I saw in one trade journal.

In fearfully bright red type, Coke asks: "Has PepsiCo opened a restaurant near you yet?" Underneath is the answer: "Wait four hours." Coke then explains the bad news. "If PepsiCo hasn't opened a KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Hot'n Now, Chevys, California Pizza Kitchen, D'Angelo Sandwich Shop or East Side Mario's in your vicinity yet, just wait four hours. Because every four hours, PepsiCo adds another unit to their restaurant empire. Another unit that competes with your business and feeds your customers."

The ad clearly suggests that Pepsi plans to use its soft-drink profits to move in on restaurant owners. So why should they offer Pepsi to their customers? They might as well offer a holdup man an extra gun. Kindly, beneficent Coca-Cola, however, has no such evil intentions. "We're committed to growing your business," it says, "not taking a bite out of it."

Thank goodness, the world's restaurant owners can relax. At last, there's a giant multinational corporation they can trust.

So This Is What You Get for $10,000 a Year?: Do you have kids in college? Wondering what they're up to? If they're named Kelley Coffeen and Rob Bezy, it's not late nights at the library. They're in the kitchen testing recipes for their new book, Great College Cookbook of the Southwest (Paloma Publishing, $11.95). It's basic stuff, but my own university experience suggests you can never be too basic when it comes to adolescents and food. Here are the instructions to prepare hot dogs with sauerkraut: "Place hot dogs and sauerkraut in a saucepan. Cook . . . until hot dogs are done. Place hot dogs in buns, spread with mustard. Smother with sauerkraut." The authors also offer pithy eating advice. My favorite: "Never pass up a food-tasting demonstration in a grocery store.


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