Let’s face it—humans are social creatures. These months of lockdowns and isolations are exacerbating our need to connect. While the days of big parties, weddings and cocktail events are definitely in the rear view mirror for the near future, is there a way to safely socialize at home?
The answer is a cautious yes—if you are thoughtful about how you approach entertaining these days.
“Frankly, we are making this up as we go because this is uncharted territory,” says Kyu Utsunomiya, a partner in Conceptually Social (conceptuallysocial.com), a catering company that also has two popular downtown Phoenix restaurants, The Larry and Kaizen Omakase + Sushi. “We are trying to keep our staff and clients safe, but we think there are creative ways to entertain and stay healthy.”
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, would likely agree with that sentiment. During a recent CNN segment, he recommended hosting small groups outdoors, where fresh air would lessen the likelihood of viral transmission. Seating people in family pods at least six feet apart also helps, as does wearing masks except while eating and drinking. Gupta also recommends guests bringing their own food and drink when possible, or serving individual portions, as opposed to big bowls of food, buffet-style.
Utsunomiya and his crew have already instituted those recommendations. “Smaller parties are what’s happening,” he says. “We are gloved and masked, and doing events for families or small gatherings of friends, outdoors.”
One of the catering changes they’ve made is banishing the buffet. “That’s just too many people congregating in one spot,” he says. “Instead, we’re doing smaller food and drink stations scattered throughout the party site or having a server pass things.”
Staggering guests’ arrival times by 10 minutes also reduces the tendency to crowd in one spot, Utsunomiya says. Another tip? Although rental companies are sterilizing and wrapping their items, using your own dinnerware and serving pieces might be the way to go, he says. One of the biggest keys to a successful party today is making sure the guest list consists of family and friends that the hosts are comfortable being around—at a six-foot distance.
Despite the pandemic, Utsunomiya’s company has found imaginative ways to do parties during the last few months. “We did a prom for one family’s son and his girlfriend,” he says. “It was just the two of them, but we did a Great Gatsby theme with a red carpet to make things special. We kept the interaction with the staff to a minimum.” For a wedding, they did a small group at the bridal home with a DJ, then invited other guests to join in via Zoom or Facebook Live, with multiple camera feeds to pick up all the action. Local guests had the same food and wine that the bridal party was enjoying delivered to them at their respective homes, so they could dine and toast via live video.
“The best way to entertain these days is to make sure that everyone is comfortable and that your guests know you are proactive about safety,” Utsunomiya reflects. “You need to be creative, but the focus should be on letting your guests have fun while still being mindful."