One of the most common complaints from owners regarding hosting a food challenge is that some guests who order their challenge are very rude, messy, obnoxious, or inconsiderate of the other customers around them enjoying their own meals. I have read about these complaints in various food challenge related news articles, and I have discussed these complaints via phone conversations while attempting to get more information about their challenge for our database. As we continue to #FeedTheMovement, we will be teaching and inspiring more and more eaters to attempt restaurant eating challenges. Even though the percentage of food challengers with very poor manners is extremely low, there will still be an increase in poor-mannered eaters that comes along with the increase in the overall number of eating challengers. The end goal of #FeedTheMovement is to really increase and grow the number of eaters, promoters, sponsors, and competitive eating fans around the world while also uniting all of us with a common purpose. We want to continually take steps forward without taking any steps back, but we will definitely reduce our chances of growth if more and more eaters practice very poor manners while attempting all of their food challenges. The purpose of this article is to inform our eaters about proper food challenge dining etiquette so that they can have fun attempting all of their challenges while also encouraging spectators and potential fans to watch. They will not be totally grossing any of them out through disgusting eating habits. This will help further promote the restaurant and challenge which will encourage other restaurants to start hosting food challenges too, and it also may even inspire a few of the spectators to become eaters themselves or at least fans of competitive eating. They may even start following YOU via social media!!

15 Guidelines For Maintaining Proper Food Challenge Dining Etiquette

1. If you have “eating gear” with you, keep it all in one minimized spot – This really does not apply to many people because most competitive eaters do not video their food challenges, but if you bring a bag with you or anything else to the restaurant, keep it all in one compact spot. Don’t take up two or three tables by laying your coat and things wherever you want. You don’t own the place, so please be respectful and don’t act like you do.

2. Be respectful to each and every member of the restaurant staff – Whether you are speaking to your server, the chef preparing your challenge, the manager in charge, or the owner of the restaurant, be respectful and do not act like that person is there to serve you. You are their guest and they are trained to provide you with great customer service, but that does not mean that you should be the center of their universe while you are there. They have other customers to take care of too. Remember that “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way. If you treat them with respect, they will treat you with respect and make sure that you have a pleasant experience.

3. Do not mash and ball up messy food items unless it is necessary – If you watch some competitive speed eaters on YouTube, you will see them grabbing different hand foods like burgers and sandwiches and mashing them up into a mushy ball so that they can eat them faster. By doing this, they get debris and sauce all over their hands and look completely disgusting while they are eating. You will likely see comments below the video criticizing the eater’s obnoxious manners. You won’t see too many comments though because most people already clicked away from the video before commenting. By doing this just to save just a few seconds on your time, you are grossing everyone out around you that is watching you, which is very inconsiderate. Eat your hamburger like a hamburger should be eaten and eat your sandwich like normal people eat sandwiches, just much faster though obviously. Even if you are the greatest speed eater ever, nobody will want you competing at their event if your manners are too disgusting to watch. There are times when you can ball your food up so that it can be eaten faster though. For example, I like to grab a handful of french fries (without any sauce or topping on them) and politely crunch them into a “fry ball” so that I can eat the fries faster, which definitely works well. I do it as mannerly as possible though and I do my best to not get any food debris on my face and hands. I don’t unnecessarily ball up my burger meat and buns though. That’s why many people continue to watch my videos!!

4. Do not let the food get all over your hands and face when possible – This can be very difficult when you are eating challenges that are loaded with sauces and other messy toppings, but do your best to avoid getting that sauce and grease all over your hands and face. This will be very unappealing to all of the spectators watching you. People don’t expect you to be the cleanest eater ever with the best manners, but they don’t want to see food and sauce flying everywhere either. You can still eat very quickly without making a big mess everywhere.

5. If food does get all over your hands and face, use a towel or napkins – As mentioned above, there are just some challenges that are going to be messy and there is nothing you can really do about it. You can obviously reduce the mess by not eating with sloppy manners, but there will still be sauce and debris on your hands and around your mouth. When these situations happen, take a very short break while you are chewing at some point to wipe off your fingers and mouth with a towel or napkins. If the restaurant gives you one or two small napkins when they bring out your big challenge meal, ask for a kitchen towel or at least more napkins so that you can remain clean and respectful while you are eating. The people around you and the staff will appreciate this!!

6. Use utensils (not your hands!!) for messy burrito challenges – There are few things in the world of competitive eating and food challenges more outrageously disgusting than when an eater dives right into a large burrito challenge and starts grabbing handfuls of rice, meat, and beans covered in sauce with his or her hands and then just stuffs it all in their mouth. Once I see that, I just have to immediately turn my head or click away from the video, and I definitely know that I am not the only person that does this. This may help take 5 seconds off your time, but know that you are grossing everyone out around you. It is one thing to eat a burrito still wrapped up in the tortilla with your hands, which is completely normal and recommended, but it is a whole different story when the burrito is served wet or “enchilada style” and you just start grabbing everything with your hands. Pick up a big spoon or fork!! It is not that hard or difficult to comprehend. That may all sound harsh, and I know many eaters that eat burritos like that with their hands, but I also know many eaters that could be making a lot of money through using their eating skills, but they are still competing for t-shirts and a few hundred dollars here and there. Part of the reason for that is their poor eating manners that make it hard for most people to watch.

7. Use utensils to scoop up saucy food debris that is on your plate – I bring a large spoon and fork with me to every challenge whether I think I will need them or not. If you are attempting a challenge that is very saucy and generally messy, and you know there will be debris all over your plate that you will have to eat, use a fork or spoon to scoop it all up and eat it. Yes you can just use your hands, but it will be much cleaner and appealing to the people around you if you just scoop it up easily with a utensil rather than getting the sauce all over your hands by picking the pieces up with your fingers. For example, if you have to eat a side of chili cheese fries, you can use your hands to pick up and eat the larger fries by grabbing an end that is not drenched in chili sauce, and then you can use your big spoon to scoop up all the excess chili and small bits of fries. You don’t need to get messy by scraping the excess debris up with  your hands. The spectators watching you will definitely appreciate your considerate use of eating utensils. Please note that it is also okay to scoop the excess debris up with a piece of the bun, crust, or other part of the challenge too. If I am eating a saucy pizza challenge, I use my crusts at the end to wipe up all the remaining toppings and sauce. Be as mannerly as possible during your challenges.

8. Do your best to avoid belching and/or “passing gas” loudly – This is definitely common sense, but please do your best to control your body and avoid offending spectators with outrageous burps and other bodily noises. I will be the first to say that I do burp up a lot of excess air during my large food challenges, but there is a large difference between a small burp and somebody letting out a belch that is heard by everyone in the restaurant. If you know that you are about to let out a burp, cover your mouth and try to keep it as silent as possible. Normal customers that are there eating a regular meal do not want to hear your bodily noises, so keep them as minimal as physically possible. Nobody wants to lose their appetite by having to watch and listen to your poor manners.

9. Don’t jump around uncontrollably and act like an idiot – It is definitely okay to get up towards the end of a challenge and move around while your food digests and moves down your body, making room for more food, but be respectful of the people around you. It is definitely okay to jump a few times and wiggle the food down, and maybe even reach your arms up and stretch, but you don’t need to be doing jumping jacks and other movements that distracts everyone else in the restaurant from enjoying their meal. Always be considerate of other diners!!

10. If you are going to listen to music, keep the volume down – It is recommended to listen to your own favorite “pump-up” music via headphones while you are eating because it helps you get in an “eating rhythm” and it also distracts your mind from focusing on the massive plate of food sitting in front of you. It has been scientifically proven that you eat more food when your mind is distracted, without even realizing that you are doing it. With that being said, the volume should not be up so loud that the customers at the table next to you can tell which song you are listening to. Please keep your music to yourself and let other diners enjoy their meal in peace.

11. If you are going to dunk, avoid making a really big mess – If you are attempting a challenge that involves a really large and thick bun, you may want to dunk it in liquid to help you eat it faster and more easily. If you do choose to do that, please do your best to not make a mess and get liquid everywhere while you are bringing the bites of bun from your glass of liquid up to your mouth. It is really disgusting to watch sloppy eaters that get liquid and food debris all over the table and surrounding area while they are dunking their food. It is especially gross to watch eaters that get liquid all over their shirt while they are eating. You can dunk and eat quickly without making a huge mess, but it takes a little extra effort that is worth it in the long run. Hold the soaked bun over the cup and let it drip for a few seconds before eating it, which will only allow the liquid to soak in further, while also keeping you from dripping everywhere. You may drip a little during the process, which is fine. Just be sure to clean it up with your towel or napkins. Spectators around you will appreciate your cleanliness.

12. If you still have a lot of food left, don’t eat until you throw up – I have a friend that used to be into mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting, and his coach was very against tapping out and giving up, unless the fighter was in a hold that would result in a broken bone or joint if that person did not tap out. He would rather have his fighter get choked out to the point of unconsciousness than have him tap out and give up beforehand. To relate this to eating terms, the coach would rather his eater throw up and get disqualified than him just “throw in the towel” and quit before reaching that point. I am a firm believer in giving 110% and going all out if you only have a few small bites left, and I have actually “reversed” a few times at the very end with just two or three tiny bites left. I would not ever criticize anybody that does that, but there is a difference between “hitting the wall” with 2 bites left versus having 2 pounds of food left. If you are to the point where you cannot really eat anymore, and you still have a lot of food left that you know you will not finish, please do everyone a favor and stop before you get sick. The challenge will still be available at a later date after you have trained and prepared a lot more.

13. If you do throw up, do not let anyone see the actual puke – If a person is going to attempt to eat way more food than the human body was originally designed to consume, there is obviously a chance that the person may “reverse” the food during the attempt. The human body cannot just quickly adapt and adjust to every change that is thrown at it. Therefore, it has it’s own methods of “fixing the situation” that your mind has no control over. This is why it is always recommended that the restaurant provides some type of waste basket or bucket during all challenge attempts, no matter how big or small their challenge is, nor how skilled the eater is who is taking the challenge. If you are attempting a really big challenge, make sure that there is some type of trash can or bucket around you, if the restaurant has not placed one next to you already. It is one thing if you do end up “getting sick” while trying to finish your challenge, but it is a whole different story if all of the spectators have to witness and see the actual puke coming out of your mouth. Puking doesn’t just happen surprisingly without you knowing that it is about to happen. Stick your head into the actual bucket or basket so that nobody has to actually witness what you are doing, because that would be really gross. Spectators will thank you!!

14. Tip your server whether you win or lose your challenge – You may win a big food challenge and get the entire meal free, but remember that your server(s) did not get all of your drinks, serve your food, clean up your table, and everything else that he or she did just for fun. They rely very heavily on tips to feed their own mouths and families, and they just served and waited on you for the last hour, so you need to tip that person whether you won or not. Even if you failed your $50 challenge, you may be paying $50 for the meal, but none of that goes towards your server. If you can’t afford to tip your waitor or waitress, then you don’t need to be attempting the food challenge in the first place. That is by far one of the biggest complaints from servers at restaurants that host food challenges. People think because they got the meal free, that they don’t even have to tip, or that because the person lost and had to pay a lot, he or she felt that a tip was not necessary. The extra tip amount or percentage is completely up to you, but remember to take care of your servers and they will take care of you.

15. Afterwards, help promote the restaurant via social media – While your purpose for doing the food challenge is to have fun and enjoy the competition, and maybe even get the meal free and other prizes, the restaurant’s purpose for hosting the challenge is to bring additional customers, like you, into the restaurant to try out their menu. If they just provided you with a very pleasant experience and fun challenge, return the favor by helping to promote the restaurant and advertise them and/or their challenge to your local friends and family via social media that may be interested in trying out the restaurant at some point. If you were awarded with gift cards, bring your friend(s) or family member(s) along with you the next time you come back to use them. The goal of #FeedTheMovement is to get both eaters and restaurants to work together to help and promote each other while acting as a united team, rather than a bunch of separate individuals working hard to get nowhere. If you did not have a pleasant experience, don’t just immaturely get on your Facebook or Twitter account and publicly criticize everyone at the restaurant, and then do the same thing on Yelp, Urbanspoon, and TripAdvisor. Maybe somebody just had a bad day. If the restaurant has poor customer service, people will find that out themselves without you needing to tell them. Kindly move on and just promote the restaurants with pleasant food and helpful staff.

Hopefully you found that all 15 guidelines are really not that hard to follow, and that they are actually also guidelines to being a well-mannered human being. During a food challenge, as an eater, everything basically centers around you. If you follow these guidelines, everyone around you will have a pleasant experience too. The key to getting sponsors and growing our sport is to make it so that spectators are actually able to stomach and enjoy watching us eat. It sometimes seems that a few eaters go out of their way to be extra disgusting while they are eating. Remember that no matter how good and fast of an eater you are, if you “just don’t care” about your manners while you are eating, know that your wallet is a lot thinner now than it would be if you practiced better manners and allowed people to actually watch you. While you may be trying to reduce your time by 15 seconds, you may also be eliminating the chance of people actually wanting to watch you perform at the event. Would you rather achieve cutting 15 seconds off your time, or would you rather settle with an extra 15 seconds while making $1,500 extra dollars? When eaters begin practicing better table manners, there will be a lot more chances for us all to make a lot more money because a lot more spectators will enjoy watching us compEAT.

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