Hosting a potluck can feel like you’re putting the success of your party in the hands of your guests—literally. After all, if they show up with an unplanned dish, something inedible, or even nothing at all, everyone suffers—but all eyes are on you.
Despite the potential pitfalls, potlucks are a wonderful way for friends and family to cook for each other, share recipes, and most importantly, avoid a pile of dishes in the sink. Which is why we wanted to put together some helpful tips and tricks to make sure your next bring-a-plate party goes off without a hitch.
1. Set A Theme For The Menu
It might feel like adding restrictions is going to limit the creativity of your guests, but setting a theme is actually helpful for brainstorming what dish to bring. Think about it: When you can make any dish in the world, it can be hard to come up with just one, but when you’re given a region of the world, a season, or a group of ingredients to focus on, it gets your brain spinning up ideas in a specific direction.
2. Assign Dishes Ahead Of Time
(Image: The Yummy Life)
Along that same line, have guests tell you in advance what they’re bringing, so you don’t end up with 14 types of dip and no chips. Even consider having the conversation about dishes in an email thread so everyone can see what other guests are bringing and fill in the gaps themselves, instead of having to go through you. And as a bonus, people can be inspired by each other’s dishes before they even get to the party!
3. Make Sure Everyone Brings Something They Can Eat Themselves
Dietary needs and restrictions can be difficult to work around, which is why we suggest you don’t force the entire range of dishes to conform to every want and need of your guests. If you did that, you might end up with a gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sodium, raw-food nightmare. As long as everyone brings a dish they can eat themselves, no one will go hungry and you won’t have to bend over backward accommodating every single need.
4. But Be Aware Of Allergies
That said, make sure you’re aware of any serious allergies before completing the menu. If anyone attending has a severe allergy or intolerance, make sure the rest of the attendees know about it, and consider placing unobtrusive notecards beside each dish to note whether it contains one of the offending ingredients. Trust us—a trip to the hospital is not a fun nightcap for your party.
5. Provide Oven Space Before The Party
Depending on the transportation options in your city, it can be difficult for your guests to travel with a piping hot dish straight out of their oven, so it’s a nice gesture to offer your own to one or two people who might be bringing a hot dish. Especially because they can help you finish setting up while their dish is cooking!
6. Stagger Arrival Times
Even if you don’t need to offer your oven to guests, you might consider staggering arrival times so that you don’t have a line of people arriving at the beginning of the party, all looking for somewhere to put down their dish. If you space out arrivals, you give yourself time to greet each person and figure out the needs of whatever they’ve brought before being overwhelmed by someone new knocking at the door.
And that’s it! We hope these life hacks are enough to encourage you to host a potluck in the near future, because what’s better than a group of friends coming together to share food and good conversation?