How to Host a Food Challenge

Have you ever watched an episode of Man vs. Food and thought, “My restaurant could totally offer a food challenge like that”? That’s because your restaurant totally should do something like that. Not only is it alluring to guests to see a mighty challenge listed on your menu, but it’s also a great way to attract some new business. Check out our suggestions below and you can learn how to host a food challenge in your restaurant.

Benefits of Hosting a Food Challenge

Burger Phone Picture

One of the biggest benefits of hosting a food challenge is the attention that it can bring your restaurant. Think about how many places you know that have the title “Home of the (insert ridiculous amount of food) Challenge”. While not everyone will be coming to try your food challenge, you'll definitely attract guests who are curious to see others attempt it.

When watching “Man vs. Food” you’ve probably noticed that during the challenge, the crowd seems to be having a blast (even if the person taking part in the challenge isn’t). That’s because watching a food challenge is similar to watching a sporting event. It brings about a fun atmosphere that everyone wants to take part in. Guests are sure to remember the fun time they had and come back again to check out what else your restaurant or bar has to offer.

Finally, in the age of social media, it’s important that your food challenge is “instagramworthy” or “tweetable”. Even if your restaurant doesn’t utilize these mediums to promote your business, encouraging patrons to use hashtags and share pictures is another great way to garner free publicity.

Deciding What Food to Offer

While you may be thinking that you want to offer the biggest and heaviest burgers around, you may want to reconsider. One of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of running a food challenge is that you want your food to still taste good, which can be hard to accomplish if your focus is on monster-sized portions. Take it from the master of food challenges himself, Adam Richman:

Adam Richman

"...Unless you are doing a spicy challenge, it should still be incredibly appetizing. Something you want to eat a lot of. Something you always thought you could or would want to eat a lot of. The best ones have a degree of ingenuity, do not let quality suffer in the pursuit of quantity."

The Challenge Needs to be Attainable

Not only is offering a challenge that can't be won a waste of your guests' time, but it’s also a waste of your money. Since offering unattainable challenges can result in wasted food, this could be especially hurtful for businesses that offer daily challenges. Not to mention, seeing a food challenge that’s never been won can be discouraging. However, if you offer a challenge that’s been won by few (versus none), this will tempt your guests. Seeing that a food challenge is, well challenging, but also accomplishable, will make diners more likely to give it a shot.

The Challenge Should Offer a Reward

Whether it’s a photo on the wall (for both winners and failures), a free t-shirt, or a discounted meal, your food challenge should offer your guests some kind of reward. Many restaurants will offer their food challenges for free if the guests can meet all the requirements and finish the meal. Not only does this give the competitors something to look forward to after (possibly) pushing the boundaries of their bodies, but this will also help to entice new guests to attempt your challenge.

Things to Consider

Giant Pizza

How Often Should You Host Your Food Challenge?

As with any change in your restaurant, there are things to consider. The most important is how regularly you plan to offer your food challenge: will it be an annual event where participants must sign up, or a daily listing that any diner can try? While the open availability of a daily food challenge may bring in a more regular stream of guests, this means that your inventory will need to accommodate for those extra ingredients. On the other hand, hosting an annual food challenge may require more advertising and you may be disappointed with low turnout until your challenge catches on.

What is the Difference Between a Food Challenge and an Eating Contest?

Since the phrases "food challenge" and "eating contest" are often used interchangeably, it’s important to recognize which one your restaurant will offer. An eating contest is generally a timed event to see who can eat the most amount of food in a set time frame, whereas a food challenge can be anything from drinking five milkshakes in 30 minutes to downing 10 of the spiciest wings.

Will You Need to Upgrade Your Equipment?

If you’re looking to offer pizzas, cookies, or burgers in excess of 50 inches in diameter, then you may need to invest in a larger deck oven. But if you’re not looking to break size records with the food you offer in your challenge, you should be fine with the equipment you already use to produce your regular menu items. However, you may want to consider purchasing new serving dishes and displayware to accommodate the size of your food challenge and to enhance its presentation.

Posted in: Advertising & Marketing|Foodservice Trends|By Emily Hepner
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