Planning a potluck doesn’t have to be a chore! Whether it is a summer BBQ in the park, a football watch party, an office holiday party, or you simply want an excuse to get together with your friends and neighbors, we can help make sure your potluck is a huge hit!
The number one rule of successful potluck-ing is: “It’s all in the planning!”
Basic Steps to Planning the Best Potluck Ever:
- Pick a Theme
- Build the Guest and Collaborators List
- Build the List of Needs
- Food and Recipes
- Party Essentials
- TL;DR – Use our planning app to simplify the whole thing!
Pick a Theme
Some potlucks have a theme built in by the very nature of the occasion, like Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or Church Homecomings. When it comes to just about every other event, picking a good theme can exponentially increase everyone’s good time! One particularly fun example is an Office Potluck where coworkers are getting the chance to let their hair down a bit (but not too far down!) A good theme can not only make things more fun but can provide guidance as to what kind of dishes guests should bring.
Your theme will directly impact which recipes your guests will choose.
If you tell everyone that it’s going to be a Luau Potluck, you can fully expect someone to want to bring pineapple pork and you certainly wouldn’t expect hotdogs at a Holiday Party! Of note, picking a theme will also help your guests know how to dress. Dressing to theme is a sure-fire way to take your potluck to the next level, so make it a rule!
POTLUCK™ Hack #1: If you are craving a specific dish or type of food, you can nudge your guests in the right direction by picking the appropriate theme (you sneaky devil!)
Build the Guest List
Deciding who is going to attend your potluck probably seems straightforward, but there are a few things to keep in mind. If this is an office potluck, obviously all of your coworkers are going to attend but is the party specific to a certain department? Are staff members allowed to invite no-staff guests?
If this is a Birthday Party at your house, how many guests can you comfortably fit? If the answer is twenty, does that mean you will invite twenty people, or will you invite ten people with +1? Is your potluck going to be adults-only, or is it kid-friendly? Do those kids count against your capacity?
Another important line of questioning starts with: Do all of your guests know each other? Are you inviting a wide range of guest that will need to get to know each other? If so, should any of them be introduced before the event?
Because potlucks require pre-event guest participation, last-minute cancellations are more rare but plan for a few anyway.
When deciding on your potluck guest list, it is important to decide up front whether you want to be strict about attendance numbers, or be loosy-goosy with the capacity and let your guests bring friends. While you do not want to end up with twenty unexpected guests, something like a Back Yard BBQ might be “the more the merrier!” We are not trying to be meanie’s but this will directly impact how much food you and your guests need to prepare. In fact, should the guests of your guests also be required to bring a dish? Set that rule from the start!
Another note that falls under the “we’re not meanies, but…” rule is what we call “false RSVPs,” or guests that RSVP yes even though they aren’t going to come, or worse yet, the dreaded MAYBE. In our not-so-humble opinion, events that require guest participation should not even include a “maybe” option, which is why we don’t offer it on our platform! If a guest is responsible for bringing the charcoal and ice, you need to know whether or not they’re going to bail!
POTLUCK™ Hack #2: To ensure you don’t get caught off guard by changing RSVPs, send a reminder three days before the event. Guests are 70% more likely to show up if they remember they’re responsible for bringing something!
Build the List of Needs
What would a potluck be without guest participation? A normal party and a lot more work for you, duh. While normal parties are also awesome, any form of event where a guest might ask, “Hey what should I bring?” is, by definition, a form of potluck! So even if you don’t think you need a planning tool, we’re going to bet you do *wink wink*. In fact, we believe almost every event should be considered a “potluck.”
Remember: What you need from guests isn’t just food. Think through the entire event!
Once you’ve picked a theme and built your guest list, of course your next thought is going to be what food should be brought. You can be as specific or as general as you want to be, as long as you are thinking about the quantity needed. You could, for example, let your guests choose specific recipes by simply telling them you need five appetizers, five entrees, and five desserts. You could also be much more specific and request bacon-wrapped dates, pork medallions, and pecan pie (drool.)
Because we realize that Great Aunt Margaret just has to bring her famous casserole, assigning specific dishes to specific guest is also totally fine as long as all of your guests know exactly who is bringing what. Don’t forget that just because you know who is bringing what, your guests also need to be informed.
The more transparent you can be about the full menu, the easier the decision-making is for your guest. Plus you’ll ensure you don’t end up with all chips and no dip!
Oh, did you think that your list of needs ended at dessert? You’re so wrong, silly billy. To ensure that you are prepared for the best party ever, ask your guest to also bring some basic party essentials! Paper towels, a table cloth, folding chairs, ice, extra coolers, paper plates and plastic cutlery all are low-hanging fruit. Having an outdoor picnic? Don’t forget bug spray and some yard games or a football to toss around! Hosting a Friendsgiving? Somebody should definitely bring plastic wine glasses and Exploding Kittens!
Does all of this sound overly complicated? Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here! Use our Planning App to simplify the entire process!
With our party planning tool, you can build out an interactive list of what guests should bring. When guests RSVP, they can see all of the needs in one place, see what others are already bringing, and write in or check off what they will bring! It really couldn’t be simpler.
POTLUCK™ Hack #3: Get yourself a co-host! Ask a guest if they would be willing to arrive early and/or stay late to help with setup and break-down.
Okay, so now that you’ve used Potluck to plan your event, and your guest have all claimed their items, you’ve made it through the bulk of the party planning process. Congrats! To ensure your potluck is the ultimate good-time-had-by-all, there are a couple of pointers we can throw your way.
You already know that you should clean your house. you already know that you should put up fun decorations. You already know that you’ll need plenty of open surfaces to put the food once it arrives. I mean, come on. You’re a pro.
A few pointers that might not have crossed your mind, however: Make sure you’ve cleaned out your fridge as much as possible before guests arrive with something that needs to stay cold until the last possible moment. Also make sure you’ve checked in with guests that will require your stove or oven for final recipe steps or to just keep things warm. If you’re not going to have enough oven space, communicate that in advance to guests that have selected warm dishes.
POTLUCK™ Hack #4: Don’t put all your food in one spot! Spreading courses or dishes across multiple locations will “force” your guests to move around and mingle. This helps break up those mini-groups that like to form and not socialize as much!
Last but certainly not least, don’t forget that this is your party too! Relax. Ignore the control freak inside your head and have a good time! If you’ve done your pre-event preparations correctly your potluck will go off without a hitch allowing you to just chill. And listen, if there ends up being a glitch here and there, don’t stress it! These things happen, and we guarantee your guests will laugh it off with you.