What Event Planners can Learn from Film and TV Craft Service Teams About Catering at Remote Locations

Craft ServicesOn TV and movie sets, craft service provides meals, snacks, and other refreshments for the entire cast and crew. Event planners can learn important lessons from these professionals about food and beverage service at remote locations and outdoor event venues... and doing it affordably.

On location shoots, craft services works from a trailer. They bring out hot snacks at mid morning and mid afternoon as per the guidelines of the cast and crew unions. For quick access, snacks and beverages are often set up on tables behind the scenes, off-camera. This set-up can also work for entertainers and event crew.

At lunch or dinnertime, there is a break in production and the whole cast and crew assembles in a large room or, on location, a tent, trailer, offsite venue, or outdoor area that is set up with tables.

Craft service teams often face the challenge of feeding a large group within a limited budget. In Canada, for example, acting and crew unions have very strict regulations covering what can be served on set. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Identify food allergies and sensitivities and plan the menu accordingly. (When actors audition for TV commercials, this information is collected during the sign-in process).
  2. Organize food and supplies in bins and coolers and label everything so that you can find it easily.
  3. Keep the area clean, well organized and clutter free.

    This video offers tips for keeping food and beverage areas at remote locations organized (especially when there are space constraints) as well as more menu suggestions:

  1. Keep it healthy. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables.
  2. Pita and wraps add variety so that guests don't get bored with traditional sandwiches for lunch. 
  3. Keep junk food to a minimum. Yes people enjoy a sugar hit sometimes but it should not be the main staple or energy levels will peak and crash.
  4. Minimize high calorie starch content. For example, cucumber slices can replace crackers or bread for bite sized snacks. Lettuce can be used as a wrap.
  5. Stews, chilies, gumbos, chowders, and shepherd's pie stretch your budget and still provide hearty fare.

    Here are some tips for stretching budgets as well as some ideas for healthy options. These can work equally well for serving participants, entertainers, and event crews, particularly when budgets are tight.

She mentions peanuts but, as pointed out towards the end of the video,
these should be avoided due to the prevalence of peanut allergies.

  1. Ensure that participants and event staff are fed regularly. Union agreements for cast and crew spell out when meals and substantial snacks must be served.
  2. Keep the weather in mind and be sure to serve hot items on cold days and some cool items on hot days.

    Cool smoothies on a hot day are nutritious and they can work wonders. There is nothing more soothing than hot chocolate during frosty weather.
  3. Keep hot items hot and cool items cool.
  4. Get creative and don't fall into a rut. Find new ways to combine familiar ingredients.

    For example, a blend of yogurt and granola is a healthy breakfast menu item or snack. Mocktails made with juice are a welcome alternative to soft drinks.
  5. If you can, visit a TV, film, or TV commercial set to pick up more ideas. The easiest way to do this is to work as an extra.

For more lessons from craft services, also check out this Internet radio broadcast How Hollywood Gets Fed: A Lesson In Craft Service.

For more tips for more budget saving tips for providing healthy catering options, also read Event Planning Tips: Save on Food & Beverage Costs,  Planning Events with Money "Leftover"Event Planning: Meals for the Event Staff, and Tips from the Pros: Maximizing Food & Beverage Event Budget.

Photo Credit: Andy Sternberg

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