Preparing a Perfect Office Potluck: 9 Things You Can’t Forget
As the pandemic winds down, many companies are allowing employees to return to the office. If you’ve recently welcomed back your team, too, you might celebrate the long-awaited reunion with a potluck. Hosting such an event is a simple yet effective way to lead everyone through a team-building exercise and help them adjust to sharing a workspace again.
While your staff should take the lead in planning this event, employers can do a few things to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
1. Assemble a Team
Employers who know how to delegate understand the importance of a party planning committee. Whether the potluck will be an after-hours event or a lunchtime gathering, putting a few people in charge of the details and splitting responsibilities will make the process easier.
Choose coworkers at odds with each other for a truly team-building experience or find organized and detail-oriented employees. Then, allow them to organize the food, decorations, music, games, and other festivities.
2. Create a Budget
Of course, you’ll also want to put together a budget so the planning team can prioritize their spending. Naturally, everyone will bring a dish, so the budget should only cover decorations, drinks and maybe the food you personally wish to provide.
Alternatively, you can put a monetary limit on how much employees are allowed to spend on their potluck contributions — much like a white elephant party. Doing so will prevent overachievers from bringing steak and underachievers from simply bringing Kraft mac and cheese.
3. Bring Quality Tableware
Let’s be honest, plastic cutlery is the worst, and so are flimsy paper plates. Plus, all that tableware is bound to end up in the waste bin when the party’s over, which is horrible for the environment — and your sustainable image. Therefore, it’s best to invest in some decent tableware.
Purchase silverware in bulk or hit up your local secondhand store for some cheap forks and knives. If your team is on the small side, you might even pick up a few plates, too. Otherwise, stick with a paper variety that’s biodegradable or compostable to minimize waste.
4. Set the Date
The best potlucks tend to have the most food, so participation is key. However, choosing a time and date that works for everyone can be a little tricky, especially if you’re working with a large team.
Instead of starting a lengthy email thread, most employers will encourage group participation by hosting the party during regular business hours. Meanwhile, those who plan an after-hours potluck will often use a scheduling poll or survey tool to figure out when most people are free.
5. Portion Your Food Properly
You don’t want to bring too much or too little food. If you fail to properly proportion your food beforehand, you may end up with an overabundance of leftovers – or not enough to go around. Fortunately, there are a few simple rules you can follow to portion your food correctly.
If you’re thinking about bringing chicken wings, you’ll likely need seven to 10 wings per person. Thinking about bringing brisket? You’ll need half a pound to a full pound per person. With baby back ribs, you’ll want to bring half a rack per person.
6. Practice Food Safety
Because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, the odds of you getting sick from eating or handling food is relatively low. However, hosting a potluck is a little different because everyone in the office will likely be hovering around the food table. Therefore, everyone will have a higher chance of contracting the virus.
Protect your staff and make everyone feel more comfortable by asking people to prepare individual serving sizes of whatever they plan to bring. This way everyone can happily enjoy their meal without worrying about getting sick.
7. Make It Optional
As with any other office party, you should make the potluck optional. While you’d love for everyone to show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you can’t force anyone to attend. Of course, raffle prizes, games, and other activities may entice more employees to come, but those who aren’t ready to socialize with everyone shouldn’t have to.
Luckily, the meal sign-up list will give you an estimated headcount without you having to ask people to RSVP. It’ll also help you create a laid-back atmosphere so more people feel comfortable showing up.
8. Plan for Leftovers
Are you hosting the potluck during the workday? If so, you’ll need someplace to keep all that food before and after the party, and it probably won’t fit in the break room fridge. Therefore, you’ll need to purchase or rent a larger fridge to keep everything fresh.
If you already have an office fridge, consider renting another for the day. Otherwise, you can rent to own and surprise your team with a new addition to the break room. Contact local and regional rental companies to find the best rate and most spacious refrigerator.
Keep It Simple
Transitioning to in-person work will take some time and likely stress out a few employees. Therefore, it’s best to keep things simple and focus on the bigger picture. After all, if the whole reason for hosting a potluck is to help employees reconnect with one another, the food is ultimately an afterthought.