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News and advice from our small-business Web siteCashing in on Soggy Fries

So maybe didn't make it in the grocery business. Founder Jay Walker is hardly out of ideas. Now he's trying to supersize fast-food sales.

Walker's latest brainstorm is "Digital Deal," a point-of-sale system. It links cash registers with food inventory, so clerks can offer last-minute specials on perishables in lieu of change. Say an order totals $3.39, and the apple pies are near the end of their 15-minute shelf life. Digital Deal might prompt a clerk to offer the customer an apple pie--normally 89 cents--for 61 cents, bringing the total to $4. If the customer bites, the restaurant sells an extra pie and the clerk doesn't have to count out change. A manager at a Burger King in Stamford, Conn., says up to 40% of customers are taking the bait.More Rate Hikes Ahead?

Interest rates on small-business loans rose again, says the Federal Reserve's third-quarter report, and private surveys suggest rates haven't peaked yet. The Fed pegged the average rate on loans of less than $100,000 at 10.36%, up from 9.94% in the prior quarter and 9.04% a year ago. On loans up to $1 million, the average was 9.67%, up from 9.26% in the prior quarter and 8.22% a year ago.

And it's not over yet: 21% of members surveyed in September by The National Federation of Independent Business reported higher rates, and Phoenix Management Services Inc., a Chadds Ford (Pa.) turnaround specialist, found most of the 76 banks it surveyed expect rates to rise a quarter- to a half-point in the fourth quarter.Edited by Kimberly Weisul

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