The most important factor for whether people will have a chance at beating your challenge is the total size of everything, but the next most important factor is the time limit that you allow for customers to finish the challenge. Having an unrealistic time limit can totally ruin a challenge and cause it to become unbeatable. Having an “unbeatable” challenge is the best way to not get any benefits from having a food challenge. You may have a 4.5lb (2kg) 2 star sandwich challenge that is definitely able to be finished by customers, but if you place a 15 minute time limit on the challenge, turning it into a speed challenge, 80% of the people that are able to finish that challenge in one sitting cannot defeat the challenge because they can’t eat that fast. A person may know they can eat that much, but they still won’t try the challenge if they know they can’t eat that much that fast. The main goal during a challenge is for the person to finish the challenge. Time limits just make sure that they don’t have all day to do finish it. If you want to have a successful food challenge at your restaurant, you need to make sure that you aren’t setting a time limit that only experienced professional eaters can beat.

You have already figured out your kind of challenge and you have a pretty good idea of exactly what you will be serving, so now it’s time to set the time limit. “A pretty good idea” means that you know all of the main components such as the meats, carbs (bun), and sides that make up the actual weight of the challenge, but you may still be unsure of the miscellaneous toppings such as vegetables and sauces that don’t really have a big effect on the weight. Using your kind of challenge, type of challenge, and geographic location, decide on the time limit that you will have for your challenge. Here are a few additional words of advice to consider:

You can’t always use “uniformity” when selecting the time limit – The biggest reason that some restaurants set ridiculous time limits is because they are trying to maintain uniformity for all of the details. What I mean by this is that a restaurant that lives along Route 66 in the United States may decide to host a 66oz burger challenge with a 66 minute time limit. That is a perfect example of how to create an awesomely symbolic challenge. This does not always work though. A restaurant would definitely be able to host a 22oz burger challenge with a 22 minute time limit, but a 22″ pizza in 22 minutes just will not work. Only experienced eaters have a chance at doing a pizza that big in that short amount of time, and you want more than pro eaters taking your challenge.

The definition of “one sitting” – Many restaurants with food challenges, typically challenges that are not even discounted if completed, do not set a specific time limit on the challenge. This is a great option if you are more focused on whether the customer can simply finish it or not, and it doesn’t really matter how long it takes. If your challenge does not or will not have a time limit, the time limit will be considered “one sitting” rather than “no limit” because “no limit” is way too broad of a term. A customer may be at your restaurant for 5 hours if your challenge has “no limit” rather than “one sitting.” “One sitting” basically means what it sounds like. The customer may take as long as they want as long as they are continually eating. A 5 minute smoke break is a one thing, but taking a 1 hour break and coming back to finish is something that you don’t want or need to deal with. Many restaurants set “one sitting” as a time limit, and place “house rules” stating that the customer can’t leave the table or go to the bathroom. Customers can rarely last over 2 hours without having to go to the bathroom, so this would be a great time limit to set if you don’t want to set a specific time limit. For smaller challenges though, a 1 hour time limit means the same as “one sitting” because if a person can’t finish a smaller challenge in 1 hour, that person probably won’t finish the entire meal in 2 hours either, and therefore time doesn’t matter.

Keep the time limit in line with the “kind” – This tip is just to stress that the kind of challenge you chose should reflect on the time limit you choose. Remember that a speed challenge is any challenge with a time limit of 15 minutes or less. Quantity challenges are over 15 minutes, and the size and type should be kept consistent with the time limit. Burritos, ice cream, tacos, milkshakes, and similar foods are easier to eat fast, so it is possible to have shorter time limits for these challenges than you would place on a steak challenge or more “meaty” challenge. Typically, the larger the challenge is, the higher the time limit should be if you want people to actually attempt the challenge. If you do really want to have a 4 or 5 star challenge, you are crazy if you think normal people will be able to eat even half in less than 30 minutes, so the time limit should definitely be an hour or more, and even then your cooks should not plan on making many, because most people can’t eat that much.

The time limit should align with the prizes to be awarded – We aren’t establishing the prizes until step 7, but you probably already have an idea of what the prizes will be. Keep in mind that the time limit should align with the prizes awarded. The less the prize is (aka just getting on the Wall of Fame or a certificate), the less strict the time limit should be. If the eater only gets to be on the Wall of Fame or even a t-shirt, it would be silly for you to set a time limit that keeps all slower eaters from winning, because that ruins all the fun. Then the challenge becomes not worth attempting. Most small money making gimmick challenges have “one sitting” as the limit.

Remember to factor in your geographic location – As you have already learned, geographic location also plays a role in choosing your time limit. Smaller town restaurants should have higher time limits than a bigger city restaurant would simply because there are not as many big and fast eaters around them. If you doubt this theory, contact us and we can send you 30 or 40 examples of failed challenges supporting our claim.

The point of a food challenge is for everyone in your restaurant to have fun, and the more strict your challenge is, the less fun it becomes. Definitely think about the time limit you are setting. Remember that it is easier to decrease the time limit than to increase the time limit. Decreasing the time limit typically happens after having too many happy customers winning. Increasing the time limit typically only happens after all of your customers complain, which will really damage the future chances of success for the challenge. To avoid all of these complaints, don’t get greedy. It’s one thing if one person complains, which typically happens no matter what time limit you set, but its another thing if 100 customers tell you that the time limit is too short. Before officially announcing the challenge, it is best to have a “bigger eater” test the challenge. This will really help you gauge whether you have established a proper time limit. Hopefully this article has helped you decide the proper time limit for your new challenge. If you now have the challenge time limit selected, then go to step 5.

To go back and view other Creating A Challenge articles, click here.