How to Safely Serve Food on Thanksgiving in Light of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Kelly Vaughan
·3 min read

Louise Hagger

It's safe to say that this year's Thanksgiving celebrations are going to be unlike any others due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If you're planning to celebrate with close family or friends who aren't in your quarantine pod, there are a few ways to make sure your gathering is safe for everyone.

Related: The CDC Releases Guidelines for Celebrating Thanksgiving Safely Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Guest List

The number of guests at your Thanksgiving feast will likely be smaller than usual. Keep the guest list to those who you've been quarantining with since the beginning of the pandemic; if you want to invite additional people outside of your regular social bubble, make sure that everyone is on the same page about wearing face masks, washing hands regularly, and social distancing.

How do you navigate a situation in which someone may assume they're included? With grace and compassion, says etiquette expert Elaine Swann. "Tell them, 'I want to do everything I can to protect you, so I plan to limit the number of people I am around right now.' Make your statement more about you protecting them and less about them being left off the guest list," she says.

Establishing the Menu

The safest way to serve food for Thanksgiving is to either designate one person to do all the cooking or have each family bring their own side dishes (and let the host cook the turkey). While potluck-style Thanksgivings are generally a great way to divide and conquer the menu, this is not the year to do that safely. If a guest wants to contribute to the meal, Swann recommends splitting the cost of the food or picking up the tab for drinks amongst all of the guests. "To keep money matters simple, I recommend picking one person in your party to collect the funds and send it directly to the host using Zelle and add a personal note in the memo line like, 'For Thanksgiving food and drinks,'" she says.

Use Disposable Dinnerware

While normally you may want to display your finest heritage turkey dinnerware collection or something equally festive, using disposable napkins, plates, and flatware eliminates the potential spread of germs when someone is collecting and washing dishes after dinner. Instead, each guest can immediately throw their own dinnerware away after they're done eating. Of course, you can still feature autumnal flair with your paper goods; stock up on these oval platters with a colorful leaf motif ($3, or use these adorable napkins that are sure to get everyone in the spirit of the season ($3, Add even more Thanksgiving spirit to your table with gold cutlery ($5,

Serving the Food

While Thanksgiving staples like turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are usually served family-style, having guests help themselves is not a wise idea in 2020. Instead, either designate the chef of the meal to serve the food for each guest or arrange a plated meal restaurant-style. Swann recommends creating stylish menu cards and having each guest check off what dishes they would like to try. Do you have a guest who like lots of corn casserole but would prefer to pass on roasted Brussels sprouts? Menu cards are the perfect opportunity for them to customize their plate.

Practice COVID-19 Safety Measures

Because Thanksgiving dinner will most likely be a group of people eating indoors, it's more important than ever that you, your family, and your guests follow all of the health guidelines that experts have outlined for months. Wear a mask except while eating, wash your hands frequently, and social distance whenever possible. This may mean setting up separate tables for families or friends that have quarantined together or moving the chairs and place settings farther apart. More than ever this year, Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for health, prosperity, and the company of ones you love.