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How to Throw an Awesome Workplace Potluck Lunch

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I have somehow become the person in charge of parties at my office, aka Angela from “The Office.” We have zero budget so parties really mean potlucks. I have been hosting monthly gatherings for about six months now and have learned a lot! I wanted to share what I have learned to help others throw an awesome workplace potluck lunch.

Workplace Potluck Lunch - charleston crafted

Tips for throwing a workplace potluck

  1. Pick a popular theme – Potluck is not a theme. I learned that the hard way. Here are some of our favorites:
    1. Chili cook off (chili, potatoes, corn bread, and fixings)
    2. Noodle bar (with a variety of sauces, salad, bread)
    3. Taco bar (with shells, meat, cheese, lettuce, salsa, guac)
    4. Salad + baked potato bar with fixings (potatoes cook great in a crock pot!)
    5. Pho noodle bar (with shredded meat, broth, and veggie toppings)
    6. Breakfast bar (eggs on an electric griddle, pancakes, waffles, sausage, fruit)
    7. Grilling outside in the parking lot (with fixings & traditional “salad” type sides)
  2. Have specific sign up sheets – I make a flier that hangs in the kitchen with a specific list of things to sign up for. This makes sure that we have a balanced meal and don’t forget anything crucial. It also helps people who are not feeling creative to know what to bring!
  3. Have a variety of items to sign up for – Some people want to cook and some do not. It’s important to have dishes people can cook (like rice, pulled pork, or salads) as well as things people can easily purchase (like sour cream, shredded cheese, or salsa)
  4. Leave some “other” spots on the sign up – someone might have a specific thing that they love, like corn salsa for the taco bar. Leaving a couple of “other” slots lets them feel like they can show off their favorites!
  5. Give 2 weeks notice – too much more and people forget, less and they feel rushed or caught off guard.
  6. Be aware of your kitchen situation – we have no stove or oven, only a toaster and a microwave. So, we have relied heavily on crock pots to cook and keep things warm.

Frequently asked questions

What is a potluck?

A potluck is a meal or party where everyone brings a dish. YOU CAN’T SHOW UP EMPTY HANDED! Do not be that guy.

What should you not bring to a potluck?

Most anything goes at a potluck, but stick to what you signed up for if applicable. Otherwise:

  • Nothing really stinky or smelly
  • Nothing that requires elaborate heating or cooking at the last minute – with an exception for crock pots assuming you bring your own
  • Don’t bring something in a can. At least dump it in a bowl and make it look presentable at home.
  • Don’t bring something that needs to be chopped, like a single tomato, and set it on the buffet line hole. Yes, people do this.
  • Avoid anything that needs an explanation – people will skip over what they don’t recognize

What is the cheapest thing to bring to a potluck?

The cheapest thing to bring to a potluck is something out of your own pantry! Nothing half used, please.

What are good things to bring to an office potluck?

The best thing to bring to a potluck is whatever you signed up to bring! But, here are some crowd pleaser ideas if you haven’t signed up yet:

  • Deviled Eggs
  • Meatballs in the crock pot
  • Chili or soup
  • Pasta or potato salad
  • Layer dips + chips
  • Charcuterie
  • Bruschetta
  • Any kind of dessert

What are some easy potluck ideas to buy?

Don’t cook? Stick to what you know and bring something pre-made:

  • Paper goods – plates, napkins, cups, cutlery – are almost always needed
  • Pre-packaged desserts are often good. Just not the super hard cookies in the grocery bakery, anything but that.
  • If there will be salad or meat – some sort of dressing, sauce, etc in a bottle – just coordinate this with whoever is bringing the main dish.
  • Shredded cheese is always a big hit – it can top almost anything.
  • Pre-made dips – bonus points if you empty them into a nice bowl from home
  • Cheese and crackers – a party staple
  • Chips and salsa – or premade guacamole if you want to be extra
  • Ice cream sandwiches, klondike bars, etc – always goes over SUPER well
  • Premade rolls

Do you have any tips for throwing an awesome workplace potluck?

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