How to

Host a Potluck

How to Host a Potluck

Potluck dinners are fun to host and are so much easier than cooking a full meal for a group. At a potluck, everyone brings a dish of food to add to the buffet table, distributing some of the prep work between each guest. Traditionally, the person hosting the gathering prepares a main dish, like a large casserole. The host also provides beverages, dinnerware and utensils. There are no set rules when it comes to these casual parties, though! If you want guests to bring meat dishes, plates or multiple dishes of food, feel free to communicate those details. Check out the rest of these tips from us Pottery Barn on how to host a wonderfully easy and delicious potluck.

Potluck Themes

When you’re planning to host a potluck dinner, choosing a theme, like around a sporting event or a specific holiday, helps your guests decide what type of dishes to bring. It also helps you decide what type of main dish to prepare, like hot dogs or sloppy joes for a casual theme or turkey for Friendsgiving. Having a theme also helps you come up with decorating ideas like patriotic stars and stripes banners and red, white and blue throw pillows for the Fourth of July. While a theme adds a fun touch to a potluck, it isn’t necessary.

How Do You Plan a Potluck Menu?

Not knowing exactly what each guest is bringing is part of the fun, but it’s a good idea to plan ahead to make sure you don’t end up with five pans of potatoes and no desserts. One way is to create a sign-up sheet and let each person put down what they want to bring. Another way is to assign types of food for guests to bring. For example, you might ask your mother-in-law to bring one of her famous risotto dishes, your neighbor to bring a veggie platter and your best friend to bring one of their yummy desserts. You still won’t know exactly what will be served up, but you will know the meal is going to be balanced.  

Potluck Party Ideas: Planning Ahead

Overall, a potluck is a relaxed event with buffet line self-service. Organize things so it’s simple to go through the food line, walk back to the dining area and access the drink counter or bar. Set up a clear starting point at one end of the counter with plates, utensils and napkins. Put buns beside sandwich meat and the cheese tray. Set up the food dishes with each type of food displayed in a grouping for easy choosing. Put the desserts at the end, or in a separate area with dessert plates beside them to make it easy for guests to grab a fresh plate for their sweet treats.

Last-Minute Touches

Encourage guests to bring foods that are ready to serve, or as close as possible to being ready. Make sure the kitchen and dining area are tidy and organized with kitchen countertop accessories. Right before the party, set out the chilled drinks, your glassware and an ice bucket. Put some small bowls of nuts, pretzels or chips near the beverages to keep everyone snacking and socializing throughout the event.

Have Extra Serving Dishes and Take-Home Containers Available

Have a few extra serving platters and bowls on hand in case you need to transfer any of the dishes your guests bring into smaller dishes when serving. Transferring foods to smaller serving containers is especially helpful if space is limited on your counter or buffet. When the serving containers get low or empty, remove them from the counter long enough to scoop some more food onto them and put them back. Have some disposable take-home containers on hand too, so guests can bring home a little bit of everything. This way, no one has to remember to return your good dishes after taking food home from the party.