How to Plan a Potluck Lunch at Work

Updated on January 2, 2018
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Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky clean and drama-free.

Planning tools, recipes, templates, and easy invitations to make planning a potluck meal at work easy and effortless are just a few clicks away. Learn more about how to plan an office potluck party!

Stop working through your lunch break and plan a potluck!

Is everyone in your office keeping to themselves, working away on their own over their lunch breaks? Then it's time bring everyone back to the table for a fun and social potluck lunch.
Is everyone in your office keeping to themselves, working away on their own over their lunch breaks? Then it's time bring everyone back to the table for a fun and social potluck lunch.

Have you just been put in charge of organizing a potluck lunch at work? There's no need to panic! Follow these tips and suggestions for organizing a fun, friendly luncheon with your cubicle mates and co-workers.

A potluck lunch at the office is a great way to add a little fun and flavor to a weary midday meal routine. When everyone in the office contributes to a potluck lunch, a five dollar dish can turn into an exotic feast. Think about it: for the same price as a burger combo at the fast food joint down the street, you can prepare a tasty, wholesome dish that your co-workers will appreciate. In return, you’ll get to try out everyone else’s creative contribution to the luncheon. How else can you turn $5.00 into a rich and flavorful feast? No wonder office potlucks are so much fun!

Freshly baked cookies are always a nice addition to a potluck lunch!
Freshly baked cookies are always a nice addition to a potluck lunch!

What occasions are appropriate for planning a potluck lunch at work or in the office?

Here are 5 good reasons to plan a potluck luncheon at work:

  • Baby shower
  • Wedding shower
  • Goodbye/ Retirement party
  • Team building activities and workshops
  • Recognition of an employee's special achievement or other good news

What are the rules for a potluck? Some people think that potlucks must be organized right down to the tiniest details including the color of the napkins! Others take a more relaxed approach to potluck planning. There aren’t any hard and fast rules for organizing a shared meal except for this one: everyone should bring a food item or dish that is large enough to be shared among a good portion of the expected guests. Here are some more tips for how to plan and participate in a workplace potluck lunch.

  • The whole point of a potluck is that everyone brings something to share, so don't arrive and say you forgot today was potluck day! On the other hand, if there is an unexpected guest or visitor at your office that day, don't exclude them. Invite them to join you and your co-workers at the potluck lunch.
  • Try all the other dishes. Give your co-workers gracious compliments and express your appreciation for everyone's contribution to the lunch.
  • Don't shame or embarrass anyone who couldn't bring a homemade dish. Not everyone has the time or talent to create meals from scratch. Store-bought dishes are a normal part of any potluck buffet table.
  • Don't bring your leftovers from last night's dinner as an offering at the potluck lunch. Presenting a half-eaten casserole to your co-workers sends the wrong message about kindness and generosity. Make your dish fresh yourself or buy something from the store.
  • Respect other people's eating restrictions. Don’t load your plate with vegetarian and vegan dishes if you're a meat eater. As a general rule, there are usually fewer vegetarian or vegan dishes at a potluck. Let non-meat eaters serve themselves the vegetarian items first before you jump in.
  • A potluck lunch is all about fostering a team atmosphere at work. Help out with the clean up. Don’t run back to your office when the meal is over. Stick around and do your part to wash the dishes and pack up any leftovers.

Fresh fruit and veggies are always popular at potluck lunches.
Fresh fruit and veggies are always popular at potluck lunches.

Always follow good food handling practices before, during, and after the potluck lunch.

1. Always wash your hands before, during, and after handling food. Take extra care to scrub your hands between handling different food items when cooking (i.e.; chicken, meats, vegetables, etc).

2. Always wash fruits and veggies thoroughly, even if they've been pre-packed and pre-washed. Take care to wash homegrown and organic produce, too.

3. Clean as you go. Always have a clean, dry supply of paper towels or sanitized dishtowels available as you prepare your food. Use clean towels to dry your hands after washing.

4. Read the labels and always follow all the product's instructions for cooking foods and storing any leftovers.

5. Always cook foods thoroughly, even if you sometimes like to eat them rarer at home.

6. Do not serve anything that contains raw eggs (i.e. dressings, homemade mayonnaise, etc).

7. Cover your food thoroughly to avoid cross contamination in the office fridge. The staff ice-box can get quite packed the morning of the potluck. Wrap your food completely to ensure that other dishes don't drip onto your dish.

Try these easy salad recipes at your next potluck lunch.

Are you a fan of having potluck lunches at work?

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Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

— James Beard
What are you bringing to the office potluck?
What are you bringing to the office potluck?

© 2013 Sally Hayes


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  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Great ideas shared here on How to Plan a Potluck Lunch at Work, you have this worked out brilliantly

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    Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

    This brings back happy memories of the first office I worked in. We had potluck lunches around once a month, they were a great way to break up the day and do something different. Hygeine rules are important, thankfully no-one ever had trouble following the lunches.

  • Careermommy profile image

    Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

    SMD2012, these are good tips to remember, especially since my office has a potluck about once per quarter. I will remember the potluck etiquette next time. Thankfully, I do help to clean up after every event.