I love food! It is a simple fact but it is an important one because I think a lot of people agree with it. I cannot stress how important it is to have good craft services and catering on a set. No matter what the budget, you can feed your crew well.
Check out the follow up to this post: Tools For Independent Craft Services, It’s a great read as well!
I will break down my ideas for great craft services and catering. If the crew is well fed they will be happy, there is nothing worse than a hungry and unhappy crew. Departments such as grip and lighting are doing very heavy work and burn a lot of calories so make sure these departments are taken care of and it will make your day even smoother.
Even if you can’t afford to pay people their full rate, you need to be able to feed them, it will make up for the money loss. Trust me on this, I have been on far too many sets where they have cut the food budget and not even hired a craft services person, that is a huge no-no! Follow these ideas and you will be sure to have a happy crew.
1. Hire someone to run Craft Services: Hire someone that has done craft services before, don’t just assign a production assistant to put food on a table. You need to hire someone who is actually passionate about what they are doing and it helps if they love food. The craft services table isn’t something that gets set up in the morning and then left alone all day, it should be maintained throughout the shoot day and food and water should be walked around and offered to cast and crew.
2. Have a daily Craft Services budget that is fair: A lot of productions will try to work with a very unreasonable and low budget when it comes to craft services, count how many people need to be fed and allow enough money to cover that cost. A better fed crew is usually a harder working crew.
3. Take dietary restrictions into consideration: You will come across all kinds of dietary restrictions when it comes to feeding large crews. There will be all kinds of allergies, gluten free diets, lactose intolerance, vegans etc. Be prepared to spend a little more money on specialty foods to accommodate these restrictions. Make sure that the food for these people is just as substantial as the food for people without issues, you don’t want people to be going hungry because there is nothing for them to eat.
4. Be creative and mix things up: Cheese and crackers, chips and chocolate are all fine but when it comes to substantials (substantials are the food served three hours into the day and again three hours after lunch, they are not just craft table snacks, they are a “substantial” enough snack to get through the six hours) it is always good to get creative and try new things. Try not to repeat the same things day after day. Subs should be served 3 hours into the day and 3 hours after lunch. Try not to serve soup, if you do serve it put it into cups with lids, it is much better for the crew to drink it like a coffee then to have to stop and eat it with a spoon. Soup can get messy so the lids allow for less spills. Hot sandwiches or wraps will go over better than soup almost every time.
5. Ask people what they like: If you are ever stuck for ideas on what to feed your crew just ask them what they like to eat, ask for feedback on the food you have provided and find out what works and what doesn’t. There is nothing wrong with getting on someone’s good side by getting them something they love to eat. Obviously this has to be within reason.
6. Shop smart: Don’t shop at a convenience store or at the most expensive grocery store because it is easy, shop in bulk, freeze things so they don’t go bad and look for the best deals on items. Make your budget go as far as possible. Don’t waste food, use leftovers for the next days subs if possible.
7. Plan ahead: If you can make things ahead of time it will make your days much easier, prepare sandwiches the night before, make food that can be frozen and then reheated on the day and break bulk food into smaller portions for daily use. Anything you can do ahead of time will make life a little easier for you on the day. Always have extra on hand in case the way you have prepared the food doesn’t work for everyone. Be flexible, don’t take it personally if people don’t love everything you make.
Craft Services Ideas
Fruit & Vegetables: This is a simple idea but don’t just throw some apples and oranges in a bowl or some baby cucumbers on a plate. Slice things up and make them easy to grab and go. When people take a whole piece of fruit they are left with a core or peel which usually gets left on a shelf or table somewhere. By preparing the fruit and veg you save yourself from messes and extra clean up.
Yogurt & Granola: An easy way to put a fresh spin on the standard granola bar is to prepare cups of yogurt and granola that people can grab as they please, having fresh fruit around gives them the option of throwing some on top too.
Wraps: If you put anything in a wrap I find people will eat it, breakfast wraps with egg, veggies and bacon are a crowd pleaser, chicken or egg salad wraps at lunch work great too, essentially anything you want to wrap up makes for a great sub. They are quick and easy for the crew to eat and usually no mess. Having a sandwich press is always a great option for wraps too.
Hot Sandwiches: Take the sandwich to the next level by making it hot and melty with delicious cheese. A toasty, warm sandwich on a cold day can brighten spirits, have multiple options but keep it simple, meat, cheese and veggies.
Hummus & Pita: Hummus is something you can make yourself or buy prepared but either way having pita with different kinds of dips such as hummus, spinach or baba ganoush is a refreshing alternate to chips and dip. Not that there is anything wrong with chips and dip, you can have those too but options for everyone is nice.
Chili/Stew: Chili or stew is a nice alternative to soup, it is warm and hearty and doesn’t spill quite as easy. I like to stick with the rule that chili works much better as a sub than as a meal. If you are going to serve chili as the meal, try to have other choices.
There are an abundance of options when it comes to craft services, it is easy to fill a table with a bowl of apples and bananas and throw down some granola bars but what will actually make the crew love you is putting a little love into the food. There is nothing wrong with having simple things on the craft services table, I suggest always having muffins, bagels, chips, chocolate, gum and things of that nature but having things like the above examples will make all the difference.
The following tips regarding catering are for when you can’t afford a proper catering service and have to pull things together on your own. If you can afford to hire a caterer then you are set and don’t need to worry about these suggestions.
1. It’s always better to get more than not enough: Always make sure there is enough food for everyone to eat and then make sure there is more. Sets are usually filled with a lot of hard working and hungry men who are going to want more than one serving, you also can’t control how much food people put on their plates so make sure you have more than enough food, there will always be someone who wants it.
2. Catered meals should be hot meals: There is rarely a case when a catered meal is not a hot meal, I have been served sandwiches as a meal on set and it isn’t appropriate, sandwiches are subs not meals. Hot and hearty food to help people get through the second half of the day is the best way to go. Pizza is unacceptable as a meal. The only time I can see it as acceptable is as a second meal when going into overtime and even then it should only be a last resort.
3. Ask for favors or donations: There is nothing wrong with reaching out to local companies and restaurants and asking if they are willing to donate anything to your production and in return you can offer a thanks in the credits. Sometimes you might have to ask your mom to make something for you, whatever it takes to get the crew fed, do it! You will be surprised how many people get excited about film and television projects and are willing to do anything to help out. Be cleaver, there is no harm in asking.
4. Make deals: If you are on a long shoot and plan on ordering from the same place multiple times, try to strike a deal with them for your repeat business. Promise them to keep coming back to them with your productions and try to cut a deal either a discount or extra food for the same price. Be charming!
5. Provide hot meals for all diets: When ordering and preparing hot meals don’t forget about all of the people on set that have dietary restrictions. Make sure that there are hot meals for vegetarians, vegans and all other food issues. Everyone deserves a delicious and hot meal.
6. Don’t expect craft services to also cater: Do not hire someone to do craft services and then expect them to prepare all of the hot meals as well. Craft services is a full time, full attention job and unless you are hiring a craft services and catering team then do not expect hot meals from craft. It is almost impossible for one person to take care of all of the food requirements on a set.
Hot meals on set can range from pasta to pizza, curry to vermicelli or pad Thai, there are tons of options when it comes to the catered meals and mixing it up day by day is always nice. Variety is always best but don’t be afraid to repeat meals on long shoots. Find out what people loved and don’t repeat something that got terrible feedback.
Craft services and catering can often be overlooked but I still think it is one of the most important areas to pay attention to. Keep the people fed and they will keep coming back.
Also, check out the follow up to this post: Tools For Independent Craft Services