Now that you have already figured out the components and size of your challenge along with the time limit, it’s time to establish the particular “house rules” that you want customers to follow while attempting your eating challenge. Since it is your food challenge at your own restaurant, you get to decide the rules that customers must follow while in your “house.” Here are some examples that restaurants use to help you build your list:

Can eaters drink during a spicy challenge? – This is the most important rule to establish if you are creating a spicy food challenge. What are customers allowed to drink during the challenge, if anything? Most restaurants don’t allow people to drink anything during the challenge, but some restaurants allow customers to drink water only because water and most non-dairy beverages don’t really alleviate the pain that occurs during spicy food challenges because capsaicin, the chemical that creates the level of heat, is fat-soluble only and not water-soluble. Then there are a few restaurants that allow eaters to drink whatever they want, including milk and other fatty dairy products. This is up to you as the challenge host, but I definitely recommend eaters being allowed to drink something if you are hosting a medium sized spicy challenge rather than a small one less than 1 lb (1 kg).

An “afterburn” period for spicy challenges? – Most spicy challenges involve eating a small amount of really spicy food in a very short amount of time, and a large majority of those challenges don’t allow eaters to drink anything while eating the meal. On top of that, many spicy challenges require the eater to wait a short period of time (usually 5 minutes) after finishing the food, and sometimes even licking his or her fingers, before he or she is allowed to take a drink and start alleviating the pain. This interval of time, if required, is referred to as the “afterburn” period (which really hurts). Most challenges with an afterburn award the meal free if completed.

When will the official challenge time begin? – Most restaurants choose to start the timer as soon as the customer takes his or her first bite. Whether they let the meal cool for 5 minutes or 15 minutes, that does not matter, and they just start the clock when the person takes a bite. Some restaurants begin the clock as soon as the person touches the food. Some restaurants start the timer as soon as the challenge hits the table and is placed in front of the customer (not recommended because most customers will want to take pictures). Then there are other restaurants that allow a 5 or 10 minute cooling off period, and then start the clock whether the customer is ready or not. That option is usually used if the restaurant wants the hot temperature to be part of the difficulty, and I have seen it used for some pho and ramen soup challenges. Starting the timer when the eater takes a bite is the most simple and recommended rule, but as you can see, you have other options.

What can the customer do with the food before the time begins? – If your challenge is served really hot or is one big item made up of many different parts and ingredients, you need to establish a rule regarding what the eater is allowed to do before the time starts. If you have a steak challenge, is the person allowed to cut the steak up prior to the clock starting or does time begin as soon as he or she starts cutting? If you serve a 6 patty burger challenge held together by wooden skewers, is the person allowed to disassemble the burger and separate all the layers before time begins? This is related to the question above, but needs to be its own separate rule. Can your burger be cut in half so that it can cool faster or will time start as soon as the cut is made? The choice is up to you and how strict you want to be. Just make sure to enforce the rule uniformly for everyone, and not just most people, with some exceptions made. You will create a few problems for yourself by operating like that.

Does the food have to be swallowed or just in the eater’s mouth? – This question needs to be answered to eliminate arguments at the end of the challenge when an eater is approaching the maximum time limit. If the time limit is 1 hour, does the eater have to have the entire meal finished and swallowed before the hour is up, or does the eater just have to have the remaining bit of food in his or her mouth? This doesn’t happen often obviously, but when it does it can turn into a big deal if the rule isn’t clear before the challenge begins.

Will the eater have to “keep it down” for a period of time? – This question will eliminate possible arguments at the end of the challenge too. 99% of challenges have rules that don’t allow the eater to throw up during the challenge, so that rule is a given, but a rule needs to be established in case the rare occurrence happens where an eater “gets sick” just a few seconds or minutes after swallowing the last bite. Restaurants usually establish a short “waiting period” (typically 5 minutes) just in case this does happen (15 minutes maximum). Then some other restaurants declare the challenge over directly after the eater proves the meal is finished & swallowed.

What is the eater allowed to do while eating? – This rule lets a customer know what he or she is allowed to do during the challenge. Can they sit, stand, or kneel? Can they go to the bathroom as long as they don’t throw up? Can they go take a break and smoke a cigarette or walk around for a few minutes while the food already in their stomach settles? Most restaurants have a rule that the customers can do what they want while at and around the table, but they can’t leave the area or go to the bathroom. This is the best and most simple rule to have, and is usually always acceptable to customers wanting to take the challenge because it allows a lot of freedom.

What can the eater(s) drink during the challenge? – This question has already been addressed for spicy challenges, but what about quantity and speed challenges? Does the price of the challenge include unlimited soft drink refills and water? Does the eater still have to pay for drinks ordered even if he or she wins? The purpose of the challenge is to finish the meal, and it should not really matter how much liquid a person drinks in addition to the required beverage, if you even require one. The extra liquid will just take up room in the person’s stomach, so why does that matter to you? It does happen occasionally though where a restaurant restricts people to only 1 glass or cup of water or soft drink. This is rare, but some restaurants don’t let eaters drink anything at all with the quantity challenge. Small spicy challenges are a different story, as mentioned up above. If you really want to set a rule restricting all beverages, especially if you have a challenge filled with chewy foods that are not really moist, make sure that you have a pretty good sized check book in case a person chokes, because you will be liable, no matter what you have the person sign beforehand. One of the purposes of drinking liquid while eating is to help moisten the food so that it can be swallowed more easily. Without being able to drink anything to help the food slide down, the chances of a person choking increase 2000%, and that person’s family will not be happy. will agree with and support the lawsuit too along with all of the awful PR your restaurant receives all over the world, because that rule is completely unsafe. Choking is not a laughing matter. You don’t want that happening in your restaurant, so don’t create rules that might cause it.

Does the eater have to pay beforehand or after the challenge? – This is up to you as the restaurant owner, but you should establish whether the meal has to be paid for upfront and then refunded if the person wins, or whether the person gets the bill afterwards if he or she loses. For more expensive challenges, the restaurant sometimes asks for the money up front or at least for a credit card to put on file, just to make sure the person has the funds to pay for the meal if he or she fails the challenge. In restaurants where customers are required to walk up to the counter and pay for their meal when ordering regardless of them ordering the challenge or not, it makes sense for a person to have to pay beforehand, because everyone else does too. It is typically not a big deal for a person to have to pay beforehand, but you may want to specify so that there is no confusion.

Do you allow dunking? – This question should be established too beforehand, regarding whether or not you allow customers to dunk their food while attempting the challenge. If you don’t know already, dunking is where a person dips his or her food, usually breads and other carbs, in order to soften up the food making it easier to eat and swallow. For a better understanding of the effects that will occur by allowing customers to dunk, please read The Effects Of Letting Eaters Dunk The Challenge Food. This issue should definitely be addressed in the rules because it will have a direct effect on your atmosphere during the challenge, and the eater’s strategy.

Answering these questions will get your “house rules” off to a very good start. To help you establish your own set of rules, take some time and check out the rules of other challenges similar to yours. The rules can usually be found on the particular restaurant’s website. To search for challenges like yours, check out the search options under “Challenges” on the top menu bar. You can set as many rules or as few rules as you  want since they are your “house rules,” but I suggest that you post the rules once you are finished both online and in your restaurant. You may want to place the rules up on your restaurant’s Wall of Fame so that people can read the rules while checking out all the photos. If the rules are posted, the customers can’t really complain if an issue comes up that is established clearly in your rules. There are a few rules that some restaurants set, but they are really silly and I suggest you avoid them because they are universally frowned upon by eaters that enjoy food challenges. For a list of those rules, check out the article Silly Challenge “House Rules” To Avoid.

Once you have established most of your challenge’s house rules, please go to step 6.

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