In step 5 of the design process, you established your “house rules” that customers must follow while taking your challenge. That list may be pretty detailed or it may be pretty basic with relaxed rules so that people can focus on having fun rather than making sure they don’t break the rules and get disqualified. Every now and then, a restaurant will establish a rule that is just ridiculous which unnecessarily damages the experience and fun atmosphere for the customers attempting the challenge. Here is a list of “house rules” that are just plain silly and frowned upon by “eaters” that enjoy trying food challenges, and I suggest you avoid using them:

A professional eater clause – If you have not already, please click here to read the definition of a professional eater. This rule typically only is enforced when a restaurant has a large cash prize worth $250 American dollars or more. Some restaurants restrict “professional eaters” from attempting the challenge because they have a higher percentage chance of winning. The problem with this clause is not that these restaurants don’t allow real professional eaters, because professional competitive eaters that are signed with Major League Eating cannot attempt the challenge anyway due to contract restrictions. The problem is that their definition of a professional is “any person that has done an eating event before.” If a person wins the challenge, that restaurant owner will then Google his or her name and if that person has done any challenges or eating contests before, the owner will declare the person a professional and avoid paying the advertised prize. If you are found to be this type of owner, your challenge will not be advertised on There are no exceptions. If you haven’t already, please read Things To Consider Before Starting A Food Challenge. Don’t start a challenge with a prize that you can’t afford to pay, and don’t restrict certain groups of people from attempting your challenge anyway. You should be happy when people win your challenge, and not running away with your tail between your legs.

Beginning the challenge time as soon as it is served to the table – I have seen a few restaurants establish this rule, and it is one the most ridiculously silly and counterproductive rules that can be set. Over 3/4 of the people taking your challenge will want to take pictures with it, and some will even want to video it. By starting the time as soon as the meal hits the table, you are basically saying that you don’t want people to take pictures and other things beforehand so that the eater and people with him or her have things to share via social media which just further advertises your restaurant to everyone that follows those people. I have had a few restaurants try to do that to me with big challenges that I knew I would need most of the time limit allowed to complete. I still had to set up my camcorders and take pictures, and immediately did everything possible to get rid of that rule. Luckily, I never had an issue with any of the restaurants, and they let me have the extra time that I needed. Setting a 5 minute “cooling off” period is pretty silly too, but nothing compared to starting the time on a big quantity challenge as soon as the meal hits the table. You want people to have fun attempting your challenge, so either start the time when the person touches the food or takes the first bite. The challenge will go much smoother.

Restricting eaters from standing up during quantity challenges – This rule is also very rare, but I have seen restaurants with a rule that challengers are not able to stand up, kneel, or do anything other than sit during the entire challenge. These restaurants feel that it makes the challenge tougher because the eater is not able to move around to help let the food settle. Hopefully that sounds as dumb to you reading this as it does to me as an eater writing about it. Whether the challenger sits, stands, kneels, or constantly switches his or her position should not matter as long as the eater is using good manners and not making a scene and jumping around while standing. The challenge is for fun, and restricting the eater in this way is just silly and takes away half the fun.

Restricting a challenger’s drink limit on quantity challenges – This rule is also very rare, but some restaurants try to make the challenge more tough by restricting a challenger to only 1 glass of water or beverage. The purpose of drinking liquid is to help soften the food so that it slides down the eater’s throat which greatly reduces any chances of choking. Challengers are able to eat faster if they use more liquids, but that liquid also fills up the person’s stomach faster. The goal of a challenge is for the eater to finish the meal put in front of him by the restaurant. If you want to make the challenge more tough, do it the right way and make the challenge larger. Do not make the challenge more tough by restricting how many beverages the person may drink. It is one thing for a restaurant to charge for drinks, but it is another thing to completely not allow the eater to drink anything. The amount of beverages that the eater requires in addition to finishing all required beverages should be left up to the eater to decide, and not you, so please allow unlimited soft drink refills during the challenge.

Restricting eaters from bringing their own beverages – Some eaters have their own preferred beverage that they like to drink during food challenges, and they bring that beverage to the restaurant to drink during the entire challenge. It is completely silly for a restaurant to deny a person from being able to drink his or her preferred beverage during challenges, especially if the restaurant does not have that particular beverage. Please not that I am referring to soft drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, lemonade, and soda. Alcoholic beverages are excluded. The most common preferred beverages are zero calorie or low calorie sports drinks. Since eaters consume so many calories during the challenge meal, they try to reduce the amount of calories they consume via liquids. Not many restaurants provide low calorie beverages other than unsweetened teas and diet sodas. Since an eater bringing their own non-alcoholic drinks has no real effect on your restaurant finances, don’t be silly by denying that person from being able to drink their preferred challenge drink that just betters their overall experience.

An unnecessarily long “afterburn” or “waiting period” – An “afterburn” refers to the amount of time that an eater must wait after finishing a spicy food challenge before he or she is able to drink or eating anything to help alleviate the pain inflicted by the really spicy food. A “waiting period” refers to the amount of time that a person must sit there after completing a quantity challenge, making sure that he or she does not throw up the challenge food. An “afterburn” period should not be longer than 5 minutes, and any amount of time longer than that is just silly and unnecessary. If the person can last 5 minutes, the person can last 10 minutes too. The only exception might be if you allow 6 minutes to finish 6 spicy wings and then have a 6 minute “afterburn.” This makes sense because the challenge is then kept uniform. Most “waiting periods” are 5 minutes. If a challenger is going to get sick, it will happen in the first 5 minutes. After the first few minutes, the food starts to settle which makes the person feel better if he or she was initially uncomfortable or feeling bad. Any “waiting period” over 10 minutes is very silly, and also becomes inconvenient for the eater. Most eaters don’t have two or three hours to take the challenge. They need to move on with the rest of their day, if they can still even function.

Making the eater pay days in advance – This rule is also very rare, and only really applies to restaurants with a challenge that requires a large and expensive specially cut piece of meat, but some restaurants require a person to come in days beforehand and pay a deposit down to reserve the challenge so that they can attempt it a few days later. Restaurants do this to make sure the challenger is serious and will actually be taking the challenge, while making sure they don’t order the required food and have to “eat” the costs if that challenger backs out and decides not to try the challenge. I understand this from a business’ perspective, but you are crazy if you think customers will make a special trip up to your restaurant just to pay for a meal they will be coming back for a few days later. That is just as silly as thinking people would pay to use Facebook. Many challengers that do bigger challenges with special cuts of meat are just traveling and want to do the challenge while in the area, and they would not be able to come in and reserve the challenge beforehand anyway. Having the eater pay before taking the challenge is one thing, but days beforehand is just silly, and will not happen very often.

Being ridiculously over-the-top restrictive regarding the challenge rules – The point of a food challenge for a restaurant is to help get more customers into the restaurant and make more money, but the point of attempting a food challenge is to have FUN. Would you like working while your boss looks over your shoulder and watches everything you do all day? No, that would be terrible!! Avoid being super nitpicky about every single detail and just let the customer have fun and eat. The eater will not have a good experience if he or she spends the whole time worried about doing something wrong and getting disqualified. You can’t just let the customer do whatever he or she wants, but the person doesn’t need to be treated like a prisoner either. Keep the rules pretty relaxed, especially if there is no cash or big prize involved with winning your challenge. Focus on the FUN and not all of the minor details. You may have a perfectly designed challenge, but if you are a real jerk about everything regarding the rules, nobody will take your challenge. Smile, have fun, and everyone else will have fun too!!

As previously stated, all of these “house rules” are very rare and hardly ever come up, but I just wanted to make you aware of them and that you should avoid them if you want your challenge to be successful. There are a few exceptions, but those are very rare too, and remember that most of these apply to quantity challenges only and not spicy food challenges since the structure of a spicy challenge is completely different than quantity ones.

Thanks for reading about silly food challenge “house rules” and checking out!!

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