Everyday Living November 22nd, 2016

The Definitive Guide To Potluck Etiquette

Being a Zappos employee for two years, it’s safe to say that I’ve had my fair share of office potlucks. In fact, my first potluck was two weeks after my first day. Shocking? Maybe, but I quickly adjusted because it was the first of many lively potlucks to come.

There was the Cinco de Mayo potluck, where I lost count of how many tacos I ate. The Super Bowl potluck, where I learned how to munch neatly on hot wings. Because, really, who wants to make a hot sauce mess in front of their coworkers? Then, the most recent potluck, where we celebrated Halloween.


But, what can I say? We Zapponians like to chow down, and we love to team build even more. Potlucks are just one of the many ways we embody our seventh core value: Build a Team and Family Spirit. It’s a time for us to gather round with our coworkers and let go of the stresses that come along with everyday work.

So, the next time a potluck notification pops up in your work email, get excited! Which, let’s be honest, with the holiday season among us, that email is bound to show up eventually. To make sure you’re prepared, here’s a list of dos and dont’s for any office potluck.

The Don'ts

Eat beforehand

This should go without saying. Don’t be the person who stops at McDonald's on the way to work and gulps down a Deluxe Big Breakfast before the lunch potluck party. Come prepared with an empty stomach. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the feast. Or worse, you’ll break your daily calorie limit.

Show up empty-handed

Well, unless you’ve got a good excuse. Your coworkers slaved over the stove, but you just brought your appetite? Talk about being a Richard. Think about Sally, from two cubicles down, who broke out the family recipe. Or Scott, from accounting, who drove to the store for that gourmet cheese and crackers platter you love so much. Just don’t be the one who shows up without food and eats anyways.

Bring a common dish

Cupcakes may be your specialty, but it seems to be everyone else’s too. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve participated in potlucks that have five different cupcakes. We can only handle so many sweets! Instead, opt for a creative dish that will awaken everyone’s taste buds. Dust off the cookbook or whip out one of the family recipes that everyone’s sure to love.


Sign up for one thing, but bring another

This move is a low blow. Think of the disappointment your coworkers will feel after they’ve been looking forward to your lasagna, but you show up with a bag of potato chips. Not to mention the shock from the person who actually signed up to bring chips. This isn’t the time for those commitment issues. Pick a dish and stick with it.

Pick a new recipe

It’s been established we’re staying away from those common dishes. But, let’s not get crazy by picking one of those intricate recipes shown on Food Network. The goal is to delight your team members, not shock them. There are a number of things that could go wrong with a recipe you’ve never cooked before. To stay on the safe side, stick with what you know and keep it simple.

The Dos

Put your name on the signup sheet

Another way to ensure you don’t bring the third fruit tray is to put your name on the potluck signup sheet. Assuming that there is one, that is. If potluck participants scribble their names next to the platter they’re planning on presenting, there wouldn’t be any of those common dishes. Just make sure you’re the first one to jot your name next to the dish of your choice before someone else does. After all, it’s first come first serve.

Buy a dish from the store

If you're like me and can’t cook worth a dime, then the grocery store will be your potluck savior. Don’t be ashamed to bring the store-bought goods. In the end, you’re probably saving your colleagues from a few rounds in the bathroom.

Wear your stretchy pants

Since the plan is to be on the see-food-diet for the day, where you eat everything you set your sights on, wear the pants you usually save for Thanksgiving. This way you can eat what you want and stay comfortable as you fulfill your workday obligations.


Fill your plate

One of the best things about a potluck is that everything’s free. That’s right; I said it. This is our chance to try new flavors and to see what our team members are made of. Don’t be afraid to fill your plate to the fullest. Munch away, then go back for seconds. Who knows, you may even find yourself swapping recipes.

Have a blast and give thanks

An office potluck is meant to be fun and draw us closer together as a team, department or company. Enjoy yourself and say thank you to your colleagues. After all, they put in just as much work as you did.