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Tips for planning the perfect party, even in a pandemic

Gloved catering plan
Professional catering staff can make sure that food is prepared and 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. Many Americans have been asking questions about how to celebrate time-honored holidays and traditions. In fact, according to market research company Morning Consult, 71% of Americans said they are already changing their holiday traditions.

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.

Research catering options ahead of time. Professional caterers are accustomed to implementing COVID-19 guidelines. Catering staff can also 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,” Tony Valenti, general manager at Valenti’s Delicatessen and Marketplace in St. Charles, said.

Another perk that comes with catering service is the benefit of having professionals preside over food preparation and monitoring.

“You have someone to do the heavy lifting for you,” Reinhold said. “You have a team of professionals that come in, that know how to stage it, that worry about all the little details, that worry about the cleaning up, the trash, the dishes – we take care of all of that … so you really get to enjoy the event,” Reinhold said.

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.

Implement contactless policies. Hugs, handshakes and elbow bumps are discouraged this year by the CDC in favor of distant forms of communication, such as waving and verbal greetings – or something more creative. Other small changes, such as limiting drinks to bottled or single-serve options and using contactless trash cans, can also help lessen cross-contamination. 

Bottles in ice bucket
Serving bottled or canned beverages will help to keep germs in check. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Hold onto event data. In the event of a worst-case scenario, keep event data ready in case an individual displays positive COVID-19 symptoms after the event. According to the CDC, a list of guests can help authorities with contact-tracing measures should an outbreak occur. The CDC also recommends that hosts should avoid any and all last-minute or impromptu guests, and attendees should be requested to not bring along any additional friends or family members not originally invited to the party. All guests displaying any symptoms, however slight, should stay home.

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