Recent injuries in a restaurant eating competition call into question this popular marketing method.

In a promotional stunt gone wrong in Edinburgh, Scotland, participants in a hot curry eating contest wound up at the hospital. The restaurant, Kismot, hosted a contest where participants must eat increasingly hot bowls of curry, finished off with their spiciest curry of all, The Kismot Killer. Even though the British Red Cross was on hand, the injuries suffered were such that two members of the contest were taken to the hospital to be treated.

Promotional meals and eating competitions are nothing new. Nathan’s has its Hot Dog Eating Contest each year. And the show Man vs. Food is extremely popular for highlighting unique restaurants that have meals that are so large/spicy/hot, that if you manage to finish the meal, you get it for free, sometimes with a t-shirt and always with bragging rights. But with shows and events like these, the participants are often those that have actually trained for the event or, as in the case of Man vs. Food, do this for a living. The people that were injured in the curry contest probably didn’t have a full year of training before the event. More than likely, they learned about it a few weeks or days before and decided “that sounds like fun, why not?”.

These sorts of promotions are usually silly and fun when you’re in a group of friends or family. Who doesn’t love watching a loved one squirm at trying to eat a 72oz. steak dinner? Everyone knows they won’t actually finish it; it’s more about the novelty and saying you gave it a shot. However, in a competition, people will often push themselves past their normal limits simply because they want to win. For example, a woman died back in 2007 from drinking too much water in a “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest. This wasn’t a restaurant hosting the event, it was a radio station, but the concept is still the same. Something like water shouldn’t seem so scary, but too much of a good thing is, well, too much.

These types of promotions take place everyday and the vast majority of the time absolutely nothing happens except upset stomachs and bruised egos. It’s important, though, to take the time to learn the potential hazards and repercussions of having events or specials like these.

Or, instead of letting a huge amount of food get wasted for the sake of quick entertainment, that food could instead be donated and use that as a promotion. If you’ll allow me to stand on my soapbox for a moment, I’m more inclined to dine at and be more loyal to a restaurant that would donate that amount of food to a local shelter or food bank. Each time I see all that food being stuffed down gullets (and many time regurgitated later), I think about all the people who would love to have even the smallest portion of that because they haven’t had a meal in so long. That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. (Steps down from soapbox.)

So what do you think? Do you think contests like these go to far? If you host events like this, what precautions do you take? We’d love to hear your feedback.