What's the difference between hosting a "potluck" or charging your "guests" for the privilege of attending?

There is a new party planning site www.zokos.com that allows you to set a price for attending your event and has the invitees pay through PayPal. Is it tacky? Brilliant? Or a little of both?



702551 November 28, 2017
It appears that the "party planning" concept for www.zokos.com failed.

Today, the site is apparently workgroup organizing platform.

More interesting is that there is no "About" information, no contact information, nothing that describes who the people are who run the service.
Sheree L. November 27, 2017
It is very interesting to see all of the different views regarding the potluck process. I just recently had this conversation with my family. Last year my boyfriend and I threw our very first Family and Friends Christmas Potluck. It was thrown at our clubhouse. We covered the rental cost. We provided all the meats, desserts, some drinks, and all the supplies. We made up gifts for door prizes. Purchased a tv as a option for people to partake in a $1 raffle. There were also multiple activities for the adults and well as children. The children had an activity table where they could decorate and take home their own personalized stockings, while the adults had the option of $1 coverall Bingo or Christmas Deal or No Deal where they actually won cash directly from us. We anticipated servicing about 50 guests and so I thought that asking that all adult guests 18 and older contribute $5 to the overall party and each family bring one item off of the side item list would be reasonable. I thought it was a very inexpensive and feasible thing for everyone especially since many of our family members have large families and at most it would be $10 from a family of 2 adults and 3 kids along with a dish. Point is most people who came had no issue with it and the party turned out great. There was a particular couple of family members who said it was tacky and decided to not show up last minute. I am older end millenial. I didn't look at $5 as admission but as a contribution to all that we were trying do for everyone to enjoy themselves. We are working class people and maybe under better circumstances we would have been able to cover everything but just the small contribution made a little difference in helping it all come together. There was no profit to be made. I just don't so why that is so horrible. Any thoughts?
ChrisBird April 18, 2012
We have a "dining club" - although that's a bit formal. The goal here is that we plan a menu together and then assign dishes. The host house has the wine responsibility. At the end of the evening we settle up. Total receipts divide, subtract and done! That way we can improve our skills, visit and have a good time by all contributing.
There is one undamental rule and that is that the wine cannot be charged to the group at more than $20 per bottle. So we always ask that the hosts charge the lesser of the actual price or $20.
Going in everyone knows the arrangement. We could just rotate the event with one house picking up the total each time, but given the variety (I did one main course where it came out tp $7 per person) and another where it came out to $45 per person without including the wines in either case. This way we make sure that the $ doesn't get in the way of the fun.
Panfusine April 18, 2012
That sounds awesome, see this is a great way of working out the menu together & making the best of such a site..

but if the thing turns out to be something like.. 'Hey, I'd like to have you all over for dinner at my place, I'm cooking, bring your friends along.. oh yeah, BTW, its 20$ a head.. go fill out the paypal form.. it turns TACKY..
babytiger April 18, 2012
Personally, I will never charge my friends for food. NEVER! No matter how much the food cost. I believe that if I invite someone over for dinner, I am responsible for the $$$. If I want to go dutch, we may as well all eat out and split the bill. I guess I was brought up that way.
Having said that, I won't mind paying my friends who may not have a lot of money to spare but wants to experiment with cooking fine dining food. We just went over to a friend's place for dinner the other night. Prime rib, foie gras, truffles, etc., for about a dozen people. That meal is not cheap and I would have been happy to pay for some of those ingredients.
Devangi R. April 17, 2012
Brandon well said and very politely said. I celebrated my birthday this year in a different manner , I invited a bunch of friends , and instead of buying me a gift or something I requested them to donate the same amount to a charity that I believed in. And, for the same organization I and other coordinators had hosted an event in NY. And, we celebrated world water week . And, everyone knows which organization I am talking about who celebrates world water week and collects funds.
Panfusine April 18, 2012
That was very beautiful gesture PD..but getting back to the main topic..

this site does not claim to do that.. they simply facilitate the 'party thrower' to suggest a party & the entry fee.. if enough ppl are interested, then paypal kicks in & money gets transferred..to what cause the money goes.. depends upon the host & their veracity..
the best case scenario.. Its a bunch of friends (with limited resources) pooling in money at the hands of the best cook/organizer, & have a night with fabulous food & company.. Money well spent..

worst case.. 30 $ a head.. Take out pizza & gallons of warm coke..

Tacky best.. People with means, doing this just to minimize their hosting costs..(like the entitles characters portrayed in those Bridezilla reality shows.. ooh, I plan to use my locked up Tiffany china, so I think everyone ought to pay for the privilege of using them!)
Devangi R. April 18, 2012
@panfusine - Exactly, that is what I am saying the main topic is the site not the people supporting it or people who are looking at the merits.So, we should simply discuss the site and not the people.
And, by the way I was not boasting about my fundraising things..but was trying to say that this site is certainly helpful in a way for such causes , if one wants to follow it. Ofcourse, I am also brought up by the concept of treating guests like Gods and I do follow that mantra to the core and do not believe in charging friends or guests.
brandon April 17, 2012
im a young chef and i love to entertain whenever i have a second away from the restaurant. just like hardlikearmour said im fortunate enough to be able to spoil my friends sometimes when we entertain which everyone isn't. That being said the most I would ever ask is for somebody to bring a bottle of wine or maybe a six pack. There is no grace or class in charging your guests regardless of the circumstance. its the boundary between guest and customer. PERIOD. If you are going to spend a lot of money on entertaining, enjoy the satisfaction of treating your friends to something special. It sounds cheesy but that is always the best payment. If you're not able or willing to provide all the food on this occasion then just have a pot luck and save yourself some stress along with the money. Please DO NOT consider charging your guests
Devangi R. April 17, 2012
I agree annahezel , that is what I meant that it is ungracious but really useful when one is organizing a fundraiser..a person like me who wanted to raise some money and not make profit instead I spent some extra from my pocket, this site is definitely useful. People judging others should know that I don't ask for cash donations in that case, they have to directly write check to the organization.

Secondly, I am not here to judge anyone just for their opinion, because everyone is entitled to an opinion. And, one should only be concerned with their friends hosting parties and collecting money and making profits rather than commenting on someone's opinion. I remember my college days where I used to volunteer, work and now a lifelong member, use to have parties by contributing and dividing our bills , rather than losing friends I have made so many friends. And, as sexylambchopsx said, we do have dinners as movie night or poker night , and those who think they can judge others I have never charged my friends every time for the movie night dinners.
Panfusine April 17, 2012
In the case of fundraisers & volunteer organizations etc that could potentially benefit, there is also the issue of how much percentage of the amount paid actually go to the charity under whose name its being organized.. (If its like those big black clothing collection boxes in parking lots who sport a charity name & then claim in small print that 2 % of the proceed from the sales will go to the charity, its not worth it at all..)
Anna H. April 17, 2012
It's certainly not the most traditional approach, and there are plenty of circumstances in which asking your guests for monetary contributions is entirely ungracious, but I can see a few ways in which the service could be really useful.

Firstly, it was started by college students, organizing and cooking for big group dinners with not such big-group budgets. What a great way to eat well (and together) even when you don't have the money to buy food for a crowd of 40.

Secondly, there are plenty of entertaining conventions that involve exchange of money (like fundraisers and supper clubs), for which a website like this would simply help to organize more efficiently.

ChefJune April 18, 2012
I agree that I could see using this for a fundraiser. In fact, it would facilitate things greatly.
sexyLAMBCHOPx April 17, 2012
50 Shades of Tacky. That's not a potluck. Perhaps if it had a different name, like Supper Club night, etc.
mrslarkin April 17, 2012
Sorry to be Debbie Downer but, It's kinda weird. The host is collecting the moneys on paypal. Who's to say the host doesn't spend all the money? Couldn't find the answer on FAQ. Also, there are processing fees. See fine print.

IMHO, if you want to spend money on dinner, support a local restaurant.
Panfusine April 17, 2012
confession: did NOT read the fine print... & yes, it is possible that if the host decides to make a profit, but will most likely LOSE friends & contacts for ever in the process..
Panfusine April 17, 2012
You hit the nail on the head SKK about guessing the age gp by their responses..
If I were to hark back to grad student days.. Yes, I think this would be a GREAT idea..definitely a refreshing alternative to going out for dinner in a group (& the associated gripes about splitting the bill on who ordered the salad & who ate the lobster!)
Devangi R. April 17, 2012
It sounds tacky at first but definitely it is interesting! The concept is really cool...though in my culture or may be to lot of us would find it not appropriate to ask for money. This is more about sharing food, or cooking together having fun and no one has to worry about money issues. Ok. I have never done it. But, just think for people who are single , young and away from their families this is a great opportunity to mingle and cook and eat food together. But, this can only happen to a bunch of people who all have similar taste and interest. I don't know will I be able to do this ever...but i found it interesting..the emphasis here is about having a bunch of friends and enjoying and minimizing the wastage of resources money and food and have lots of leftovers.and i agree with others if I know the friend is a great cook or so then I might not mind sharing the cost. I have a small but close group of friends who love to meet and eat , but usually it is at my place. Not that they don't want to invite us to their place but they have their own reasons and that too genuine. eg. one of our friend lives in a joint family (don't be surprised , Indian families it is possible) so we don't enjoy honestly to spend time at his house just because we would have our own restrictions on what to speak and what not to..or we cannot even have wine in front of their parents. So, usually or always it is my place where we meet , whether I have invited them or we are having potluck. and, although I can afford the cost , sometimes it is just overboard. I am just saying. It has its own merits. Do I sound silly? I am not yet 30.
Me too , can pay to have meals made by HLA!
ChefJune April 17, 2012
When I started out, I entertained my friends with pizza, pasta or bread-and-soup parties. Frankly I still enjoy that casual level of dinner party sometimes. It's not about how much money you spend, it's about the love you give and the food you share.

Using PayPal commercializes what for me is a very personal event. I can just see: Birthday Dinner for Roberta Doe at Sue Smithereen's. $30.00 for dinner???? I don't think so. (or am I showing my age?)
Panfusine April 17, 2012
I'm completely in agreement.. There is a part of me that believes that friends will not look down on you if you did not serve them hi end organic fare, but I'd rather have friends respect me for what I share with my whole heart & like me for doing the same to them, rather than charge them on the pretext of serving Hi end fare that I normally could not afford. It also could potentially become a barrier & an embarrassment to some who may not be in a position to shell out that cash at that point of time.. (job loss, medical expenses.. ) those folk need to be cared for all the more without sticking them with a bill.. in any case its that start up that wins always.. & personally , I cdnt care less about a start up venture brat looking to make his millions over a friend whose company I cherish.
ChefOno April 17, 2012

Definitely an interesting thread as many of these opinion questions are. I enjoy, and learn from, reading comments from people who hold differing views.

For many years I have been a regular part of a group where I cannot, because I don't live in the area, reciprocate dinner invitations. The hosts understand, it's never been a problem. The rotation isn't equal; perhaps that's even part of the charm, to be beyond keeping score.

I don't have a problem with the site in question, you've convinced me some people could find it useful. It's only the exchange of cash I object to. And that's only my opinion (although I expect Miss Manners would agree).
SeaJambon April 17, 2012
Have to admit, when I first read the question, it totally pegged my tacky-meter, well beyond "totally appalled". But then, further reflection and discussion, it does appear to be something that could be useful in the (relatively limited) "right" circumstances and beyond dreadful (back to "totally appalled") in the wrong hands. Yes, I guess I'm "old fashioned" where manners are concerned.

I think it bothers me a bit more than it might otherwise, simply because I'm concerned about the overall commercialization of good manners -- there have been a number of situations recently where, rather than a hearty "thanks" and honest appreciation for a job well done, money and/or gift certificates were added to the situation, thus changing the dynamic from something that was done simply for the pleasure of doing it, to a commercial (read -- my opinion --crass) transaction that overall cheapened the experience for the person who did it in the first place. Is it a clash of generations, or does paying money for something that was intended to be a gift not only cheapen the gift but leave the gift giver less likely to do the good turn again? It is a very interesting, and repeated, thread in the advice columns.

Bottom line: know your audience and their expectations.
ChefOno April 17, 2012

I don't think the question asked requires any understanding of the site. Simply put, it's one thing to throw a potluck and another to ask for money (unless you're running a restaurant).

However, after spending a few minutes checking it out, I agree it *could* be less tacky than I expected. And it could also be "college kegger".

The classic dinner party rotation allows costs and duties to be shared without the crassness of an exchange of cash. A guest's only obligation in my home is appreciation and none of my friends would ever insult me by offering anything more than help, a bottle of wine or a handful of flowers. Nor would I ever insult them likewise.

I survived my cash-strapped youth by entertaining within my means, as did my friends.
hardlikearmour April 17, 2012
The trouble with the classic dinner party rotation is that (at least in my circle of friends) some people are not much into cooking, and can feel too intimidated to throw dinner parties. They'd be left out of the rotation circuit, even though they're a pleasure to have at a party.
I also do like the idea of having "friend of a friend" inclusion, which the site certainly increases the likelihood of.
It also allows people to splurge without breaking the bank, and who doesn't like a nice splurge on occasion.
It's definitely not a concept for everyone, but I think it has its merits.
SKK April 17, 2012
The other great thing about this site is that it does not limit having great food to what is in one's means. My daughter, who is one of the 52% of college graduates looking for work and underemployed at the same time, just called to tell me that now she can make her beef short ribs recipe for her friends. They have been demanding it, and the money thing was difficult. Now she knows how many people are coming and has the cash to buy the quality of products she knows is necessary.

My daughter and her friends have quite sophisticated palates, and this is giving them room to really step out in the food world.
SKK April 17, 2012
HLA, we find the same thing in our dinner group. Also, we have busy schedules. When I have been traveling I find I am thrilled to help defray costs rather than bring something. Our group is older, all professionals, and we still appreciate what it takes to feed 12 to 14 people a week.

This is a fun thread, you can almost tell how old we are by our responses.
ChefOno April 17, 2012

My post below should have gone here but…


Voted the Best Reply!

AntoniaJames April 17, 2012
Another good example of seeking to understand before seeking to be understood . . .perhaps the idea of "party" is what's throwing people here. The intimate gathering they depict on the home page certainly doesn't seem like the type of event that I'd ever dream of charging people to attend. But I could easily see more "public" events, e.g., gatherings planned by groups of people where it really does make sense for people to chip in. This would facilitate that process. You're essentially ticketing an event. And like the others who've commented, I'd be thrilled to chip in this way for a party when I know the food is going to be great. Also, I often am asked by guests whether they can contribute cash and it can be somewhat awkward. (And it's even worse sometimes in the other direction.) I'm not sure I'd ever use this for a party at my house, but I can certainly see how younger people who like to entertain but have limited means and understanding/loving friends might find it useful. ;o)
SKK April 17, 2012
As an additional thought, when you work with the site you find also gives people the opportunity to have friends bring friends. And it is ingenious how it captures the RSVP. This could be great fun!
SKK April 17, 2012
Checked out the website also, and agree with HLA all the way. It has its uses. For example, I know some people who want to open a restaurant and this would be a good way of getting their food out to others and build a clientele. I have been part of a group for years that gets together every Thursday night for dinner. Not everyone is always in town, and we have only cancelled 3 times in the past 10 years. We rotate who brings what and I can see this application making things a lot easier to manage, especially when we want to 'splurge'.

Sent this on to my daughter who loves to cook and her friends always offer to pay. She is 24 and is thrilled with this web-site.

I would be more than willing to chip in for a meal with a great host. HLA, I would definitely pay to eat one of your meals!
hardlikearmour April 17, 2012
I just checked out the site. It comes off less tacky than I expected it to when they explain the concept. I don't know if I'd use it, but I can to some degree see the appeal. I do prefer to create my own menu for dinner parties to having a potluck (I have control issues ;-) ). I spent over $50 on the meat for my last dinner party, and think about $150 total (for 8 people including myself and my husband.) I'm lucky to be able to do so, but not everyone is. I'd probably be willing to chip in for cost if I knew my host was a good cook. It'd still be less than a restaurant meal, plus probably more fun.
lorigoldsby April 17, 2012
HLA....I agree the site is well done, but my initial reaction was "tacky!"...but then after checking it out, i wondered if I was being "old school" and this is a good way for those that would like to entertain more often, but can't afford it...but I keep hearing my grandmother saying, you don't ask people to pay, only entertain at what level you can afford!
hardlikearmour April 17, 2012
I have a suspicion the site is geared more toward the younger crowd... I like annahezel's comparison to kickstarter. http://www.food52.com/blog/3248_collective_dinner_partyplanning_made_easy
ChefOno April 17, 2012

A potluck is about sharing food and company with your friends or community. Asking for cash is indeed "tacky, tacky tacky". Possibly illegal as well.
Devangi R. April 18, 2012
Hi Chef Ono - The site does not talk only about potluck. Potluck is of course a wonderful concept of sharing food and company and should never be compensated with money. Your sentence possible illegal as well makes me laugh. lawmakers will have to come up with a law..
HalfPint April 17, 2012
Tacky tacky tacky
Panfusine April 17, 2012
TACKY...there's a limit to commercializing gracious home hospitality...& this crosses it..A potluck is when everyone pitches in what they'd like to share & collectively have a good time such that the hostess is not burdened with slaving over the kitchen stove..Its unthinkable that I'd aske friends to p[ay for food.. but maybe its because I believe in the tradition of revering a guest as God when I feed them.. (Athithi devo bhava' in sanskrit)
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