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Tips for planning the perfect party, even in a pandemic

Caterer with gloves
Catering staff and other professional services can provide food for an event and also make sure it’s served safely. (Source: Adobe Stock)

The spread of COVID-19 has impacted nearly every facet of life in 2020, and social gatherings are no exception. 

In October 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a list of considerations for personal and social activities, proving that while events with family and friends may look different this year, it’s still possible to hold a fun and safe party in 2020. A few tweaks to existing plans – or considerations to make during the planning process – can prevent a host or hostess from scrambling at the last minute or having to cancel.

Limit the number of guests, even if that means multiple parties. According to the CDC, transmission risk can be lowered by having a medium-sized gathering, or smaller, that is adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart. To accomplish this, a host or hostess might have to break up traditionally larger events into multiple, smaller events. An added benefit is less work for the host or hostess and having more time to be present during the event to interact with attendees. 

Control the kitchen. While there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by food, according to the CDC, people sharing utensils and congregating around food service areas can still pose a risk. 

“If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils,” the CDC suggested.

Hiring designated servers can not only limit the amount of traffic through the kitchen or event space, but also eliminate the need for hosts and guests to don PPE every time they serve themselves. 

“If you’re using our full-service catering option, we come out with staff and we take care of everything,” said Samantha Reinhold, assistant to the president for the Gitto Restaurant Group. “From where the food is placed, to the serving pieces that it’s placed on – whether they are rented through us or using your own – we’ll take care of that for you.” 

For additional social distancing or larger gatherings, many caterers also offer individually boxed lunch options.

“There are steps in place now where you can have individual meals boxed up,” Tony Valenti, general manager at Valenti’s Delicatessen and Marketplace in St. Charles, said. “That’s something I’d say you do in a setting of 40 and above. Thirty and below, you’re going to know where most of those people have been collaborating. There are individualized or special boxes or packaging where everyone can grab and individual meal and eat and they don’t have to hover over a buffet.”

Research catering options ahead of time. Professional caterers are accustomed to implementing COVID-19 guidelines. According to Valenti, catering staff also can provide a host with insight on how many people each dish will feed, and depending on the size of the party, can make recommendations regarding how much extra food should be budgeted and even what catering format will best fit the event.

“If you say, ‘Hey, I’m having 20 people over, how much turkey do we need?’ … Those are details that you would work out with your local caterer,” Valenti said.

Another perk that comes with hiring a catering service is the benefit of having professionals preside over food preparation and monitoring, allowing the host or hostess to simply enjoy the event.

“Why not engage (guests) in conversation and activity versus working, cooking food and trying to do everything?” Valenti asked.

Provide masks up front. According to the CDC, masks should be standard for indoor gatherings of any size. To encourage individuals to wear masks, hosts can send masks with the invitations or provide them at the front door before entry to a home or event venue. Ordering themed or personalized reusable masks or buying them from local boutiques can not only inspire individuals to enjoy them at the event, but also to take them home as a guest gift. Other favors can include sanitizer or personalized tissue packets. The host should have extra masks on hand in case an emergency or last-minute replacement is needed.

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