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How to Plan a Corporate Thanksgiving Potluck

Efficient Admin (aka Michelle) loves hiking in the mountains and good food. She works as a Project Assistant for an engineering firm.

Every Office Needs a Morale-Boosting Office Thanksgiving Potluck!

Holiday Potluck with all the trimmings.

Holiday Potluck with all the trimmings.

Everyone loves a potluck at work. It boosts morale, gives employees a break from the every day work routine, and gives them a chance to mingle with other departments they normally don’t have contact with. It is an internal networking event and can be a lot of fun. If you are thinking about planning a potluck for your office and don’t know where to start, here are a few tips to get you going in the right direction.

Getting the Approval

Most corporate offices have a chain of command to approve an office potluck. Once they approve the budget and give the final go-ahead, create a colorful and festive email to all the employees letting them know to “save the date” for the annual Thanksgiving potluck. List the day, time, duration, and location in the email. Also state what the company is providing in the way of food, and that there is a sign-up sheet posted in the kitchen for their convenience. Depending on your office, you may want to find someone who will say the prayer or blessing before the potluck starts. Ask around for volunteers to help with food prep (i.e., warming up food and putting on buffet table), moving tables, decorating, and cleanup afterwards.

Finding the Space

Look around your office and decide where you want to have the potluck. Depending on the size of your staff, you could pick a large conference room, or perhaps you have a large cafeteria-type meeting room. Ideally you will want to set up the food buffet style in this room as well. However, it is not mandatory that the buffet line and seating are in the same room. Pick a place where you can seat everyone comfortably and then decide if you can fit the buffet line in the same room as well. Another idea is to set up the buffet in the kitchen if you have the space, and then everyone can get their food and walk over to the seating area. Maybe you have a smaller conference room where all the food will fit on the table in a buffet style.


Dollar stores have different colored plastic table clothes for $1.00. Red is always a good holiday color whether it is for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Fourth of July. Orange and green are good colors for Thanksgiving as well. If the budget allows, go to Party City (or any party supply store in your area) to pick up some festive paper tablecloths to go with the plastic red tablecloths for a bright décor. They also sell Thanksgiving paper plates and napkins to add some fun to the potluck. Take the tablecloths and cover the buffet table(s), and then decorate all the seating tables with the tablecloths if appropriate for your office.

Ordering the Food

Most companies will at least order some ham and turkey for the employee Thanksgiving potluck. Call around and get bids from a few of your favorite caterers. Tell them you are planning an employee potluck for Thanksgiving and your headcount will be approximately xx number of people. Ask if they provide the paper plates, plastic utensils, and paper napkins if you don’t get them at Party City.

If you don’t have any favorite caterers, go to Google and type “office catering” and your city and see which companies show up that you can call. If you are an administrative assistant, you probably do know a few good caterers, or maybe an Admin in another department can refer you to someone they know. You could also sign up at to see if they are located in your city. When you order from this site, the caterer shows up, sets up, and the cost is all-inclusive including the delivery fees and tip.

Advertising the Potluck

Design a festive sign-up sheet to post in the kitchen so employees can sign up to bring whatever side dish or dessert they wish to share with all their coworkers. If people start asking, “what do you need me to bring” or “what should I bring?” A few suggestions are as follows:

  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Green beans or green bean casserole
  • Stuffing and gravy
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Broccoli casserole
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Deviled eggs
  • Garden salad
  • Any kind of appetizer such as pinwheels, meatballs, dogs in a blanket
  • Pecan pie
  • Sweet potato pie
  • Carrot cake
  • Pumpkin pie and whipped cream
  • Anything Thanksgiving related…..the list can go on! I’ve seen people bring a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, and fried chicken from Bojangles and there were no leftovers of either one!!

The Layout Plan

In the evening before, prepare the tables with tablecloths, and the layout of the potluck—i.e., if you need to move tables and chairs now would probably be a good time to do it, so you won’t have to worry about it the day of the potluck. You have to determine what is best in your situation.

Since many people like details, a few days before the potluck, send out another colorful and festive reminder email to all employees about the potluck and the logistics such as:

  • Reminder to clean out their stuff from the refrigerator so there will be room
  • Where to put food that needs warming up
  • Where to put desserts and appetizers that do not need heat or cold
  • How do we warm up food close to lunch time
  • Where is the overflow seating, if needed
  • Where does the buffet line start


Volunteers will help with cleanup and preparing the leftovers for the next day (if there are any leftovers!). You may want to have on hand some quart and gallon sized food storage bags and foil for food storage convenience. If your potluck is on a Friday perhaps a few employees may take leftovers home with them so the food does not go to waste. At my office, leftovers don’t last very long!

Bon appétit and happy Thanksgiving!

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© 2012 Michelle Dee


Michelle Dee (author) from Charlotte, NC on January 05, 2013:

shiningirisheyes - we are still having the holiday potluck every year for about 80 people and you are right, when everyone (or most everyone) participates and brings a homemade covered dish it turns out really well and everyone really has a great time. It always helps a lot when people volunteer for cleanup as well. Thanks for stopping by.

Jeannieinabottle - yes the employees really look forward to this event and it has become a tradition at our office. We position the buffet tables near the front of the room, near the front wall near the outlet cords, and use a few of those power strips for the crockpots. Of course all the crock pots are clustered together in the same spot. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the vote up.

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on January 05, 2013:

We have a Thanksgiving potluck at work each year and the employees love it. The only challenge is figuring out where to plug in all the crockpots! Great ideas and voted up!

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on November 06, 2012:

My old office used to arrange a Thanksgiving and Christmas potluck. They turned out fabulous primarily due to every one pitching in to help out.

Michelle Dee (author) from Charlotte, NC on November 05, 2012:

Hello Mhatter99 - thanks for stopping by and for your comments.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on November 04, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this. I used to run my own "Romp and Stomp" potluck picnics. As the business (safety) environment changed and the guest list passed the 200 (employees and their families), I was encouraged to stop and the picnic was moved under corporate wings.

Michelle Dee (author) from Charlotte, NC on November 04, 2012:

Hello billy - thanks for stopping by. I hear you are a really popular guy lately. Yep you are right, you can create your own potluck and I don't believe you are missing anything in corporate america. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 04, 2012:

Well, this doesn't even come close to applying for me, unless I want to give myself a potluck dinner. :) That doesn't mean I can't stop by to give you some support. Great information for those who need it!

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