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Potlucks, which involve people bringing their preferred dishes to share at a gathering, have become a common practice, whether hosted in someone’s home or at the office. Dishes range from sweet treats to savory options, with each person contributing their favorites that sometimes wow the crowd but sometimes miss the mark.

Opinions about potlucks tend to differ. Some find them enjoyable, while others may not share the same enthusiasm. People have different approaches when they are in the kitchen. Confidence in the cleanliness of a friend or relative’s kitchen and their hygiene practices can contribute to a more comfortable potluck experience.

The ups and downs of a potluck.

However, a different dynamic arises when dealing with work luncheons or potlucks involving less familiar faces. Unpleasant memories may surface, such as the cringe-worthy video of a woman using the same spoon to feed her dog and stir her dish before serving it to someone. Such instances highlight the potential challenges of potluck gatherings.

While potlucks offer the promise of enjoyable times, they also present the possibility of mishaps. The diversity of dishes introduces an element of unpredictability, with certain options consistently being avoided, ranging from overcooked lasagna to underdone meat. No one wants to be responsible for ruining a potluck.

Achieving success in a potluck requires careful coordination of various elements. Regardless of if it’s a last-minute event, organizational skills are key. Implementing a sign-up sheet or getting insight into attendees’ contributions ensures a structured approach, while still allowing for creativity. Categories such as appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, salads, desserts, and beverages can be added to inspire creativity and guarantee a well-rounded spread, avoiding the awkwardness of a lopsided menu.

Despite not being able to control every aspect, there are several ways to navigate potential potluck fails. To guide you through the potluck experience, we’ve compiled a list of potluck etiquette that aims to create a smooth and enjoyable gathering. Check a few below.

  • Stick to Your Potluck Commitment

    If you commit to bringing something to the potluck, stick to your word! If you’ve signed up to whip up a red velvet cake, don’t surprise everyone with cookies or a dip. Deviating from your agreed-upon dish can create a gap in the spread, so be consistent.

    person write reminder text on the note sticker on the fridge

    Михаил Руденко/ Getty Images

  • Be Considerate of Food Sensitivities

    Consider others’ food sensitivities. While it’s impossible to know everyone’s allergies, you can be considerate by creating a sign with the list of ingredients for your dish. This way, those with sensitivities can make informed choices. For example, if your chili is a meaty, spicy masterpiece, give a heads-up to the attendees.
    Sales Assistant In Bakery Putting Gluten Free Label Into Freshly Baked Savoury Roll

  • Communicate Your Food Allergies & Sensitivities

    Communicate your allergies or sensitivities to the host. If you have significant food sensitivities or allergies and are invited to a potluck, inform the host. Alternatively, bring your own dish. It ensures you have a safe option to enjoy at the event.

    Happy young businesswoman speaking on the phone while working in a warehouse. Online store owner making plans for product shipping. Creative female entrepreneur running an e-commerce small business.

    JLco – Julia Amaral/ Getty Images

  • Don't Skimp on the Goods

    Don’t skimp on contributions. If you’ve chosen to bring soda, make sure you bring enough of a recognizable brand for everyone. It’s not cool to bring a small quantity of generic soda and then feast on other items, leaving little for everyone else.

    Woman shopping in supermarket

    Image Source/ Getty Images

  • Understand the Leftovers Deal

    When you bring a dish to someone’s event, whether it’s an acquaintance’s dinner party or a friend’s potluck, consider it a gift without expecting to get the leftovers back. Once the dish is given to the host or placed for serving, it’s no longer yours, including unopened items. If the host insists you take leftovers, then go ahead and enjoy them.

    Foil trays for food on a white background

    pioneer111/ Getty Images

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