Your event planning budget is tapped, but you still want to get the office together for an afternoon of bonding and putting off tedious tasks: It’s the perfect excuse for a potluck.
Planned carelessly, though, potlucks can leave everyone wishing they’d just gone out to lunch or, worse, opted for a sad desk salad. With these tips, you can avoid such regrets, and impress everyone with your superior cooking (and planning!) skills.
1. Assign dishes
We’ve all attended the dreaded potluck that consisted solely of cupcakes and tortilla chips. This problem is easily avoidable — if, that is, someone takes charge. Send and email two to four weeks in advance announcing the potluck and asking people what they plan to bring —appetizer, salad, main course, or dessert. Consider naming a theme to help everyone come up with creative, potluck-appropriate dishes. Assign food categories to those who fail to respond in a timely manner. If, by some miracle, your coworkers reply with dishes in mind immediately, don’t be afraid to ask them to reconsider for the sake of the potluck and a well-balanced meal. You can also create a physical sign-up sheet or a shared excel doc split up into categories so that everyone can see what is needed.
2. Don’t forget the utensils
The organizer of the potluck should provide the utensils and plates. This way, your entire potluck won’t be thwarted by a sick or forgetful coworker. Encourage people to bring the utensils they will need to serve with their dishes.
4. Make room in the fridge
Clear out the fridge the day before the event so that there’s room for everyone to store their food the next morning.
3. Limit on-site preparation
If your office contains a full kitchen, make a note of who will need to finish cooking their food before the potluck starts. Consider assigning them times to use the kitchen so that no one has to fight for oven, stove, or microwave space.
5. Arrange the space thoughtfully
Make sure you have enough table and counter space before the day of the potluck. Make plates, forks, and napkins easily accessible: they should be the first thing people reach for. Lay out the dishes in their respective categories with the appropriate serving utensils. Desserts should go in the furthest corner of the room — you want people to eat the real food first if you can help it.
Et voila! It’s clearly not so difficult to throw the perfect office potluck (and, of course, much simpler than feeding the entire office yourself). All you’ll really need is a little advanced planning and some willing office participants.