Restaurant challenges are a huge publicity coup for the hosts, and an intriguing pull for customers. These customer invitations to consume extra large portions of popular menu items, with or without time limits, draw in new customers and plenty of attention.
In fact, in the English speaking world, restaurant challenges have now gone viral, with restaurants trying to outdo each other, offering a variety of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert challenges that promise to bust a gut rather than bust a wallet.
Restaurant owners and customers reason that if they enjoy the menu items in smaller portions, their sense of enjoyment increases exponentially as the portion size grows. Customer incentives such as a free meal and publicity in the form of a picture on the restaurant wall for challenge winners serve as further enticements, and help diners forget that their eyes are figuratively bigger than their bellies.
Incentives aside, food quality remains the most important ingredient for today's restaurant challenges. No one wants to go to a restaurant and pay one hundred dollars for a six pound plate of fried, baked and boiled insects on the promise that the money will be refunded if the customer successfully consumes the entire meal. A delicious burger will be every bit as delicious if it's bigger, but it's still somewhat shocking to discover that customers keep returning to restaurant challenges that offer some very simple, very expensive, and very, very big restaurant menu items. Here's ten of the most popular such challenges around the world today.
10 Komachi Japanese Restaurant: Ramen
Ramen! Remember when you were so poor you ate Ramen Noodles for seven straight days? A restaurant in Sydney Australia, Komachi Japanese Restaurant, considers those happy memories. The meal consists of two liters of soup, a bit over two pounds of noodles and a healthy mixture of vegetables and meat.
In other words, it's seven nights' worth of Ramen in a one hour time frame. Finish the meal and it's free, along with a $100 certificate for additional meals. While not an impossible task, the restaurant currently claims only thirty-two winners out of over six hundred challenge attempts over the past thirteen years.
9 Corner Cafe, UK: Monster Mega Breakfast
The Brits love their breakfast, and currently they are going bonkers for breakfast restaurant challenges. Print and television media promote it, with one Cafe, Dinner or Pub trying to outdo the other.
Today's biggest hit, the 'Monster Mega Breakfast', courtesy of Corner Cafe in Portishead, contains six sausages, six rashers of bacon, four eggs, two omelettes (three eggs per omelet), four black puddings, four hash browns, four portions of mushrooms, two ladles of beans, two ladles of tinned tomatoes, one bowl of chips, four pieces of toast, four pieces of fried bread, two slices of buttered bread, and one milkshake.
The whole thing comes to a heart stopping total of 7,778 calories.
8 It's All So Yummy Cafe, TN: Rocky Top Ice Cream Challenge
Got a sweet tooth and eating for eight? If so you might want to try the It's All So Yummy Cafe, Rocky Top Challenge, an Ice Cream Sundae to die for, hopefully figuratively, not literally. The Sundae consists of sixteen scoops of ice cream, three brownies, three bananas and sundry toppings. Eat it all in an hour and it's free. As an extra bonus, you'll be bouncing off the wall for hours on a sugar high. Consider the alternative. Take it home, let the kids eat it and watch them bounce off the walls for hours on a sugar high.
7 Jack-N-Grills, Denver: Seven Pound Burrito Challenge
Americans take their breakfast meals as seriously as anyone else, and the rising popularity of Mexican food often translates into the rising popularity of extreme Mexican food. For example, consider the Jack-N-Grills seven pound Burrito Challenge.
Fully cooked, it measures as large as an adult forearm and consists of seven potatoes, twelve eggs, one pound of ham, an onion, cheese, and chili. Stay put until it's finished and it's free, plus a picture on the Wall of Fame. An extra incentive for female entrants, stay put and finish it.
6 Corned Beef House, Toronto: Corned Beef Challenge
Corned Beef Sandwiches are the favorite of NASA astronauts. At least, that's how the story goes: It was once revealed that an astronaut sneaked one aboard the Gemini 3 mission.
Cross the border in Canada, deli eating at its finest comes to Toronto with the Corned Beef House. While they serve a variety of traditional deli items, the challenge comes in consuming a two and one-half pound Corned Beef sandwich consisting of meat, bread and a pickle. If you do so in one hour, the food is free. There's no guarantee, however, that your stomach won't be lost
5 The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo: Big Texan Steak Challenge
With Americans invested in a steak diet, restaurant steak eating challenges can be found most everywhere. They do things big in Texas, and perhaps one of the oldest and biggest steak eating challenges comes from The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. Since 1991 travelers along Route 66 have stopped by hoping for a free meal. Currently the challenge rules start with cost.
They offer a $72 steak dinner challenge consisting of Shrimp Cocktail, Baked Potato, Salad, with Roll, Butter, and a 72 oz. Steak. Finish it off in an hour and the cost is refunded. After challenging customers for almost a quarter of a century and still being in business, it's a pretty safe bet that the house almost always wins.
4 Mallie's Sports Bar & Grill, MI: Monster Hamburger Challenge
Think about the average American craving for a quarter pound hamburger. With that thought in mind, it's easy to understand the popularity of restaurant hamburger challenges. In terms of a challenge that emphasizes sheer size it's difficult to top the Mallie's Sports Bar & Grill ten pound Monster Burger Challenge.
For comparison purposes, multiply the average quarter pound hamburger by forty and consume said hamburger in less than two hours. Any customer who succeeds in polishing off the ten pound burger receives a burger refund of approximately $40 and an extra $100 bonus, perhaps for purchasing a super-sized bottle of Maalox.
3 Schiappa's, IL: Schiappa's Pizza Challenge
Looking for a memorable and inexpensive date? Think pizza. Pizza math is not all that difficult. Start with the fact that the average extra large pizza measures approximately fourteen inches.
The Schiappa's Pizza Challenge for two consists of a twenty nine inch pizza covered by four toppings. Another approximation would be to cross two yardsticks together and draw a circle to estimate the pizza size. On average, each of the parties to the date needs to consume the equivalent of an entire large, four topping pizza in one-half hour to get the meal for free. It's shocking to think what happens on date night following the meal.
2 Voodoo Doughnut, Portland: Tex-Ass Doughnut Challenge
Doughnuts, the perfect breakfast or late night snack got a tad bit better with the Voodoo Doughnut free doughnut challenge. It's called the Tex-Ass Doughnut, a traditional glazed doughnut with a twist, it's approximately six times as large as the basic large glazed doughnut, about the size of a pound cake. If you can consume it within an eighty second time limit, your money is refunded. Either way, you'll be bouncing off the wall for at least a couple of hours on a massive sugar high.
1 Spike's Junkyard Dogs, Boston: Spike's Hot Dog Challenge
Hot dog eating contents are as American as apple pie, popping up on Fourth of July celebrations as well as at the corner deli. One particularly popular contest, the Boston based, Spike's Junkyard Dogs hot dog eating contest takes the cake. As the old saying goes, there's practically no such thing as a free lunch.
The Spike's challenge consists of a customer consuming six oversized hot dogs in large rolls. While the restaurant reports that over two-thirds of participants complete the task, their only reward is getting their name on the restaurant wall of fame.
In order to qualify for a free meal, the customer needs to break the hot dog eating record, which currently stands at 15 hot dogs for men and 12 hot dogs for women.
All those hot dogs, and only a picture of a stomach ache to show for it...