There are many restaurants around the world who have hosted eating contests before, but don’t anymore simply because of how discourteous and rude some of the past eaters were during and after those previously held events. This can also be said about food challenges, as mentioned in Proper Food Challenge Dining Etiquette. A restaurant and staff is not going to go through all the trouble and effort it takes to set up, market/promote, and host a successful eating contest if the participants are not appreciative and courteous throughout the event. Anybody who has ever been involved with hosting a party or larger event understands what I mean. I recently spoke to an owner who used to host an eating contest at a festival nearby and awarded over $5,000 in prize money to the winners of the event. After a few years of hosting the event, they limited the contest to amateurs only because some of the “professional” contestants were cheating, fighting, and doing other unnecessary things that created a negative experience for the spectators, general public, and everyone else involved. After hosting an “amateur only” event with much less prize money awarded, they decided to just quit hosting the contest altogether because some eaters were lying about not being a “professional” and the benefits just weren’t worth all the troubles and negativity that stemmed from hosting the event. This happens often, a lot more than you’d think, and every year there are more and more restaurants and festivals that are no longer organizing the events they once hosted. Many eaters complain, but really this decline is partly our own fault.

In our article Proper Food Challenge Dining Etiquette, we list fifteen guidelines that people should follow while attempting a food challenge so that they remain courteous to not only the restaurant hosting the challenge, but also to the general public around them, who all more than likely didn’t go to that restaurant to watch some guy make a big loud mess and disrupt everyone around them. Reading that article first before continuing on will definitely help you better understand some of the guidelines below, but know that the guidelines are much more relaxed for people competing in eating contests rather than food challenges. The main reason for this difference is because over 97.5% of the time the people around a person attempting a food challenge aren’t there to watch the person eat that food challenge. They are just there with their with family, friends, or their significant other, trying to have a normal and quiet meal together, and maybe even watch an athletic event on the restaurant’s television. Therefore, that person needs to be a little more clean and calm most of the time (obviously there are exceptions such as during speed challenges with very short time limits). In the case of eating contests though, everyone is there to watch that event & your goal is obviously to win the competition, so you must do whatever you can do (within reason) to achieve victory. Anybody who isn’t there for the contest just happened to get there at the wrong time, and you don’t have to worry about them in this case. That is then the restaurant’s job to sit them somewhere away from everyone involved with the contest. Then if they want to watch, they can do that. Keeping that in mind, here are some guidelines you should follow during your upcoming eating competitions:

10 Guidelines For Maintaining Proper Eating Contest Etiquette

1. Call ahead to sign up and confirm you’ll be there – There are some restaurants who don’t prefer that you call ahead before attempting their food challenge, simply because they always have the necessary materials and staff on hand to cook, serve, and monitor your attempt. Therefore, calling ahead is unnecessary (but usually still appreciated). In the case of eating contests though, all restaurants and other hosts would definitely appreciate you calling ahead and confirming that you’ll be there, so that they know how many contestants they should prepare for. There is a lot that goes into preparing for an eating contest, and knowing how many contestants to expect will make those preparations much easier and a lot more accurate. The host must have enough tables and spots available to fit everyone, and more importantly they need to have enough food prepared beforehand. They also must have enough counters, judges, and staff on hand to monitor and take care of all the competitors. All contest hosts should of course expect a few people to sign up right before the competition, but chances are high that some people will get turned away if too many people try to sign up unexpectedly. Also, if a contest host doesn’t have anybody sign up early, they may just cancel the event out of fear that nobody will participate. You don’t want that to happen do you? If you know you’ll be attending an event, the host would greatly appreciate you letting them know in advance so that they can be more prepared to run a smooth & fun event for everyone. Most importantly for you, it will guarantee that you get a spot and are able to compete in the popular events!!

NOTE: There will of course be exceptions to #1, such as if the host won’t accept any registrations until a certain time on the day of the contest (they do this to eliminate people signing up beforehand and then not actually showing up). In these cases, just get there early ahead of everyone else and make sure you get a spot. There are some contests too that choose who competes based on “randomly drawing names out of a hat.” Contests like that are covered more in Contests That Could Get Sketchy, which you may want to avoid in some situations.

2. Be respectful of others and stay within your own “eating area” – There could have been a few points before this about aspects before the contest starts, such as don’t provoke and piss people off beforehand, trying to “get inside their head” and throw them “off their game.” I’ve only known of one person to do that type of thing though, so everything similar is just lumped into this one. Be respectful of the other eaters and their space. I’ll be the first one to say that I’ve made sure to get the spot I wanted next to the  people I wanted to keep track of, as recommended in Tips For Analyzing Your Competitors, without much regard for anyone else. I have done a few other borderline things as well, but I always make sure to “get what I want” in the least “rude” way possible. If you want to win a contest, you need to try to “get the upper-hand” whenever possible, and anybody wanting to win should also expect that, while trying to do the same thing. So if you can do something you think will be advantageous (legally and within reason), then by all means go for it. As Hall Of Fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky says, “You  miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Just be sure you aren’t being rude to your fellow eaters or the contest host and officials. Also, be respectful and stay within your given “eating area.” There will be competitions where too many people are crammed into one small area, and there isn’t much “room to work with” in front of you. Everyone is dealing with that same issue, just like you, so make the best of the situation and do what you can do, & try not to invade any of your neighbor’s space when possible. Show R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!

3. Do NOT be unnecessarily messy and sloppy – You are in the eating contest to eat as much as you can as quickly as you can, and all the spectators in attendance know they are watching an eating competition, so by no means are you expected to eat like you’re dining with your grandparents. While attempting to speed eat, it’s already presumed that you may get some sauce or food around your mouth, on your hands, and maybe even a little on your shirt. Little things like that may happen, but there is no reason to have debris all over the table in front of you and covering your shirt. That extreme sloppiness is not really helping you that much, if at all, and it’s surely grossing out the other eaters around you along with the many spectators watching. There is also no reason for you to be getting food debris and liquid all over your neighbor’s area either. Be respectful of all the people around you, and do your best to eat quickly without making a big, sloppy mess throughout the contest.

4. If dunking, don’t get out of control – As said in Dunking: The Steroids Of Competitive Eating, if contestants are allowed to dunk their food in liquid before putting it in their mouth, there is a high chance that a few people will get really messy and gross while they are eating. If you did not know already, the water and other liquids soak into and moisten the buns and other foods, making it easier for a person to swallow the food faster once inside his or her mouth. It also loosens the food up though and makes it come apart more easily. Because of that, if some contestants get out of control, there could be food dropping everywhere with liquid splashing all around them. If you are dunking during a contest, consider the other people around you and don’t be too sloppy throughout the dunking process. There is no need to thrust your hot dog into your cup and splash water around the table. Quickly dip the food in there and take it out, without letting debris go everywhere. Again, it’s possible to eat fast without being extra sloppy & creating a complete mess, making the spectators turn and look away.

5. If you are feeling sick, slow down or stop!! – When a group of individuals are all trying to eat a lot fast, and especially if there are beginners and amateurs competing, there is definitely a risk that one or two people may get sick and “reverse” at some point during the competition. If you are starting to feel sick, and especially if you are not in the lead or directly behind the person in first place, there is no point in pushing yourself further and possibly throwing up. Take a break or at least slow down, try to burp up some air and let your  stomach settle, and then go full speed again once you are feeling better. Everyone around you will appreciate you doing that!!

6. If are going to “reverse,” step away and get out of everyone’s view – Any legitimately organized eating contest should have waste baskets (and sometimes even buckets) readily available in case somebody gets sick and has a “reversal of fortune,” resulting in them being disqualified. Guideline #5 said to “know when to say when,” but if you do get that feeling that you may actually get sick, then step away from the table, signal for a waste receptacle, and get out of everyone’s view. People may laugh and even cheer when/if you actually do get sick, but nobody actually wants to see it happen. This especially goes for all the competitors around you!! If people actually see you getting sick, then more than likely that may cause somebody else to get sick as well, and that’s not a good chain reaction to initiate. Please leave the area and get out of everyone’s view. Once you are finished you can then go back and watch the end of the contest. Just be sure to clean up your entire mess.

7. DON’T CHEAT!! – It’s no secret that some people try to hide food and get credit for more than they actually ate during the contest. It’s much easier to do if dunking is allowed, and especially if somebody is using opaque cups or liquid you cannot see through. People will leave debris in their cups, hoping nobody sees it, or they will even use other methods to hide a few bites of food if dunking is not allowed. There really is no positive result that stems from a person cheating, since 95% of the time they get caught by at least somebody. Once you do get caught, anybody that competes in future events with you will think you’re cheating somehow even if you aren’t. Therefore, follow the rules of the contest just like everyone else is, and everything will go smoothly. If you feel you need to cheat to win, maybe you should have trained harder beforehand and gained confidence.

8. If you catch someone cheating, please stay calm – The best book I’ve ever read was How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. In that book, he tells a story about a notorious murderer named ‘Two Gun’ Crowley who finally was surrounded and alone in a big gun battle between him and the law (he was known as a ‘cop killer’). When they finally captured his body, they found a note covered in blood that read, “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody any harm.” The man had killed many people ‘at the drop of a feather,’ but he still believed in his heart that he was a kind man. Can you believe that? You may be wondering where I’m going with this! The point I’m trying to make is that if see a person blatantly cheating, you will do absolutely ZERO good if you rudely call that person out as a cheater. That person is going to do nothing but get upset and defend himself/herself, and that will cause a big scene which will reflect negatively on both of you along with the contest in general. Two people yelling at each other about how they each think they are right is not ever going to end peacefully, and that person is never going to give themselves up and apologize for cheating. Therefore, if you catch someone cheating, calmly let the judges know what is going on, and get it all resolved without making a scene. The contest host and judges make the final decision and not you, and you will look like a ‘cry-baby’ if you start yelling about how the other person cheated after you lose. If you know a person has food stuffed in their dunking cup (or did anything else illegal), let the judges know so that they can take care of the situation and get the issue resolved. Don’t take it upon yourself, because it won’t end in your favor.

9. Win AND lose, graciously – Everyone frowns upon sore losers AND arrogant winners, so be sure to act modest if you win, and don’t be a ‘whiney-baby’ if you don’t win. I’m not saying don’t get excited and show enthusiasm, but you don’t need to go and ‘rub it in everyone’s faces’ afterwards. If you do lose, you of course may be upset and mad at yourself, and maybe even mad at someone else, but there is no need to make a scene and run off the stage ‘mad at the world.’ You will just make yourself look like a ‘diva’ that handle pressure when things don’t go your way. Graciously accept your prize during the big award ceremony (if you get one of course), take whatever pictures the contest host needs, & then you can go home and Critique The Eating Contest And Improve. Create and maintain a positive image of yourself before, during, and after the event, and everything will go very well!!

10. Help promote the contest host(s)!! – While the eating contest host(s) obviously wants everyone involved to have a great time, don’t forget that the main reason that host organized the event is because of the promotion. exposure, and marketing power that hosting eating contests can create. That sponsor wouldn’t give out $2,500 in prizes if it did not expect a great “return on their investment.” A restaurant would not even host a smaller contest with smaller prizes if it didn’t expect some great exposure along with many people participating and watching (and also buying food and drinks of course). If you want that event to happen again the next year, help promote the contest and sponsor before and after the contest. A few simple social media posts/photos is all I’m referring to, and maybe even invite a few of your friends to come watch. If you really want to help, then create a video of the general event so that interested people who weren’t actually there can watch it (hopefully the contest host is creating one too though if they are smart). This next tip won’t exactly help promote the contest to others, but it will help make sure the event happens again in the future… Thank the sponsor after the event!! A simple, “Thank you for hosting the contest, we appreciate it!” will go a very long way for most people. If the contest host and staff feels that all their efforts were appreciated, they will be much more likely to want to do it all over again the next year. They may even want to make it even bigger with even bigger prizes for you to win!!

By following the ten guidelines listed above while also keeping in mind the recommendations in Proper Food Challenge Dining Etiquette, you will have a great time during and after your next event, and you will also allow everyone else around you to have a great experience as well. If you compete in fifty eating contests though, probability says you’ll more than likely encounter at least one or two contests that don’t go very well. There may be judging errors, people cheating, and many other negative things can possibly occur. Luckily, there are ways to reduce the chances of you participating in a contest that doesn’t run smoothly or end correctly. If you broke down and analyzed every single eating competition that has ever gone poorly, you would find that most of the arguments and errors stemmed from only a few different reasons. If you know one or more of those triggers will be present during your next competition, you need to prepare yourself mentally so that you can stay calm and still be respectful, while maintaining a professional image. You may even want to avoid the entire competition altogether if risk isn’t worth reward. For more on that, please read Eating Contests That Could Get Sketchy.

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