Patrons of some fast-food places in Alexandria did more than chow down on cheeseburgers Friday. Taking advantage of the local registrar's brainstorm, they registered to vote.

For the first time in the Washington area, corporate representatives say, visitors to Alexandria's McDonald's and Roy Rogers restaurants were given the opportunity to register and thus be eligible to participate in the Super Tuesday presidential primary March 8 and City Council elections in May.

"I love registering here, it's great," said Alexandrian Merrill Freund, 23, who dropped by for lunch at the McDonald's at 619 King St. "I've been meaning to register to vote for two weeks and this makes it very easy."

Sam Howar, 32, of Annandale, who registered to vote for the first time in his life, praised the idea of registering voters at fast-food outlets because "normal, working people and middle-class people come to McDonald's. You aren't going to see a lot of people in tuxedos eating here. So registering to vote here is good because it will encourage average- and lower-income people to vote for someone who will help them."

Beverly Beidler, Alexandria's registrar of voters, came up with the idea after studies showed that successful and cost-effective registration locations tended to be where large numbers of people regularly gathered.

"The fact is that more people register if you go where lots of people are than if you ask them to come to your office," Beidler said. "I did an analysis this year of all the places where we register people . . . and found that some of the most cost-effective places were the Giant grocery store and a Metro stop."

Beidler said there has been a trend in recent years to register people to vote at shopping malls and in stores, but even she says registering people at fast-food restaurants is "different." It's also perfectly legal.

"The {Virginia} state law just says that voter registration must be at a public place, so I see nothing wrong with doing it at fast-food restaurants," said Susan Fitz-Hugh, executive secretary of the Virginia Board of Elections. "I know that other restaurants have been used to register people."

State registration laws were eased in two 1986 voter-approved referendums that encouraged registration efforts outside courthouse offices.

Eric Miller, director of operations for the Washington area McDonald's restaurants, said that voter registration at fast-food restaurants "is not that common."

"It has been done in other parts of the country, but it's the first time that I'm aware of that it's been done in the Washington, D.C., area," Miller said.

The fast-food operators were more than happy to cooperate.

"We love to participate in something like this; it's a good way to serve the community," said Dat Do, owner of the King Street McDonald's. Do emigrated from Vietnam in 1971. "I couldn't wait to register to vote after I became an American citizen. It made me very proud. It's very important."