There are currently over 3,000 existing food challenges in the database, and I had to spend time searching online and calling the restaurant for each particular detail of every one of them. The out-of-date database that I started with though had easily over 4,000 food challenges in it. Many restaurants have tried to start a food challenge since Man v Food first premiered in 2008, but many of those challenges have failed because the restaurants just didn’t really know what to do or how to set it up so that it even had a chance to be successful. As you learned in Man v Food’s Effect On The Restaurant World, the television show has inspired many bars & restaurants around the world to create new food challenges, but it never taught any of them HOW to do it.

Since these restaurants don’t know HOW to create, promote, or host a challenge, they then don’t even know WHY their challenge is not getting many attempts or maybe even none at all. The owners eventually decide to end the challenge and then make themselves feel better by claiming that a food challenge just won’t work for their particular restaurant and that the challenge not working wasn’t their fault. In reality, it was definitely their own fault because a food challenge can work at any restaurant/bar if it is designed correctly to fit the particular restaurant hosting the challenge. If a food challenge is failing or not living up to its fullest possible potential, there are probably multiple reasons why. When going through the initial database and figuring out which food challenges no longer existed, I made sure to study each failed challenge to figure out WHY before crossing it off the list. These are the main reasons that most eating challenges fail or under-perform their potential capacity:

Too expensive – People won’t want to try your challenge if it costs way too much if they lose. There are some steak challenges that cost over $100 American dollars, and there are many other challenges that cost over $50 American dollars. These don’t get nearly as many attempts as cheaper challenges. The higher your price is, the less people that will be able to afford to attempt it. If your food challenge is too expensive for your customers, even if it is still a good value at the price it is now, you may have to create something that is more affordable.

Too large – You can award 1 million dollars as the prize for winning your challenge, but that prize doesn’t matter if nobody can beat your challenge. People will not try your challenge if they know they don’t even have a shot at getting through half of it. The larger your challenge is, the less people that will be able to finish it in one sitting. Challenges that can only be finished by professional eaters are not smart challenges. If nobody is trying your challenge anymore, it may just be too big, so you need to create something a little smaller that is “beatable.”

Time limit too short – If a challenge is just too big, the prizes and time limit don’t matter because people can’t eat that much. If the time limit is too short for the size of your challenge, then the prize also doesn’t matter because people cannot eat that much food that fast. People will not try your challenge if they know they definitely won’t be able to finish within the time allowed, if at all, so you may need to increase the time limit to give people more hope. Its much easier to justify raising the limit rather than lowering it. If every person is complaining that the time limit is too short, and especially if people have quit trying it, you should listen.

It doesn’t fit your restaurant – Some challenges don’t get attempted simply because the food isn’t good or nobody wants to eat that much of a particular item. The challenge item needs to fit your menu. People aren’t going to want to eat a burger challenge made by a Mexican restaurant, just like people will not want to try an Asian soup challenge made at an American diner. Along the same lines, your customers may just not want to eat 5lbs of the food you chose, but they would try if it was something else. Just because you like something does not mean everyone else will. If nobody is trying your challenge, it may be because it doesn’t fit your restaurant, so you need to create something else more fitting. Ask customers which type you should pick, and try that.

You can’t set it and forget it – The 4 reasons above are obvious reasons, but this is a major problem too. Many restaurant challenges fail simply because the restaurant just created the challenge and then forgot about it. If you don’t push the challenge, nobody will, and therefore the challenge will cease to exist because people don’t even know the challenge is available. Marketing a challenge never officially ends, and you can’t just promote it for a month and then expect people to just continue trying it. If you don’t care to promote it, people won’t care to try it. It really is that simple. Remember that it’s all about effort and you get out of it what you put into it.

There are obviously other reasons that food challenges fail or under-perform their potential, but these are the main 5 reasons. Some issues like the time limit being too short are fixable, but others basically require you to start a new challenge, using the new knowledge you gained from your previous challenge not working for you. If people didn’t try the challenge simply because of the food type you chose, make sure to pick something that your customers will actually want to eat this time. You don’t really learn from winning, so don’t get upset that your challenge did not work on your first try. Now that you have a better idea of how to design and market your challenge, both from past experience and from, either fix your challenge or create a new one so that you can start seeing the real benefits that come from hosting a successful food challenge.

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