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6 Tips for Hosting a Successful Potluck

6 Tips for Hosting a Successful Potluck

Don’t end up with 14 bags of chips.

A good potluck takes the stress and work out of hosting. You don’t have to make every dish! Someone else can be on drink duty! But just as you have to make your own luck, it takes a little bit of thought to ensure your potluck goes smoothly. You do have to plan ahead and do a little bit of coordinating. With that, these are our very best tips for hosting a successful potluck.   


1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. 

Does anyone have allergies? Are there vegetarians or vegans in the group? It’s wise to check with guests in advance, so you can be sure everyone has something to eat. If people have food sensitivities or preferences, be sure to make them known in advance. This way, people can keep the information in mind when picking out what they’d like to contribute. The day of the party, be sure to set out paper and pens, so folks can mark the name of their dish and its ingredients. Even if there are no special dietary needs, this can be a fun way to start up some conversations! 

2. Be specific about what you need.

Once any dietary needs have been confirmed, the next step is to ensure you’re serving a complete, well-rounded meal. Divide the menu into categories – appetizers, main dishes, sides, desserts, and drinks – and make sure all the bases are covered. Contributing something that everyone will enjoy is part of the fun of potlucking – no one wants to feel like their effort is redundant or a repeat of something that’s already on the table (and no one wants just chips and napkins for dinner!). Don’t be afraid to make specific requests; you’re not being a control freak, you’re just being smart.

3. Know your friend group. 

The key to a successful pot luck is not only delicious food, but also happy guests. Before making any food requests, consider an individual’s comfort level with cooking and general degree of timeliness. For example, you might suggest that the friend who’s perpetually late bring dessert, rather than an appetizer. Even “great cooks” get burnt out sometimes; if someone in the group would prefer to bring a drink rather than their famously delicious five-hour chicken, go with the flow. Just be sure someone else is taking care of the main course.  

4. Consider a sign-up sheet. 

Once your guest list is confirmed, consider setting up a shared Google Doc or Google Sheet where guests can publicly announce what they’ll be bringing—and any special needs they may have upon arrival. With a visible list, everyone will know what to expect. And you’ll know how many people will be asking to use the oven to reheat their dish. 

5. Stock up on the essentials. 

As the host, there are certain things you should be sure to have on hand: ice, paper plates and cups, utensils, and some extra food storage containers, for example. Extra serving dishes and utensils can also be handy. If you know that people are going to be bringing dishes in slow cookers, make sure you have extension cords on hand. Of course, you’re going to make sure people have a place to put their dishes when they arrive. That means you may need to set up some extra folding tables.  

6. Let loose and enjoy!

It’s easy to get wrapped up in throwing a party. Someone might show up with something different than what they said they’d bring, or maybe a salad sits out and wilts. Perfection is overrated. Have fun and everyone else will, too. 

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