"I realized we would be the absolute dominant industry leader if we merged."

-- Telebanc CEO Mitchell Caplan on why the Arlington-based Internet bank agreed to be acquired by E-Trade.

Help, But No Yelp

Don't expect to see Chihuahuas in Fannie Mae advertising any time soon.

The District-based mortgage giant just hired Vada Hill, the Taco Bell executive responsible for the hugely popular "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" advertising campaign, but Hill won't be doing marketing targeted at consumers.

"Vada will be developing more sophisticated business to business marketing efforts," said Fannie Mae spokesman John Buckley. The idea, Buckley added, is to come up with marketing and promotional ideas that "persuade our customers that Fannie Mae products and services are best for their customers."

Hill, in a statement, said becoming Fannie's senior vice president for marketing will allow him to "make a meaningful contribution that comes straight out of politics, public policy and marketing -- true passions of mine."

Buckley described the 39-year-old Hill, who has worked with both Procter & Gamble and former education secretary Lamar Alexander, as "the perfect person" to fill the job, which has been open for about two years.

Fannie Mae made some other personnel moves last week including these appointments:

* Thomas E. Donilon, senior vice president and general counsel; Donilon is a partner at O'Melveny & Myers and was chief of staff for former Secretary of State Warren Christopher

* Theodore E. Maness, vice president for industry relations; Maness is former executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee

* Earl Thomas Booker, vice president for technology marketing

* Terri L. Davis, vice president for technology sales and consulting

* Roger L. Williams, vice president for community-based lending.

-- Tracy Grant

Palate Ballot

There was a time when Mom, Dad and the kids gathered every evening around the kitchen table for dinner. That's not so anymore. Washington ranks second among the top 10 U.S. cities in household spending in eating and drinking places -- $2,832 per household annually.

Having emptied their pockets and tested their palates, more than 12,000 Washingtonians have cast their ballots for the best of the region's hospitality industry. The awards were presented last night at the 1999 Capital Restaurant & Hospitality Awards Gala in the J.W. Marriott Hotel.

Roberto Alvarez, who several years ago brought his Latin-themed Cafe Atlantico and Jaleo restaurants downtown pre-MCI Center, took home honors as the Restaurateur of the Year. Chef of the Year went to Ris Lacoste, who oversees meals at 1789. And not surprisingly, DC Coast Restaurant, where a Who's Who of D.C. celebrities lunch, nabbed kudos as the New Restaurant of the Year.

Among the other winners:

* Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: South Austin Grill in Old Town Alexandria

* Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington Association Member of the Year: J. Alan Hayman, Hayman Systems

* Foodservice Employee of the Year: Tony Aleman, Old Ebbitt Grill

* Hospitality Employee of the Year: Christopher Cunje, the Latham Hotel

* Hospitality Ambassador of the Year: Lisa K. McClure, Jones Lang LaSalle -- Union Station

* Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award: William Edwards Jr., area director of Hilton Hotels Corp.

-- Judith Evans

CAPTION: Taco Bell's talker isn't in Fannie Mae's advertising future.