Hungry crews are grumpy crews, and grumpy crews don't move as fast, collaborate as well, or get as much work done. So, the best way to keep your helpers happy and highly productive is to feed them well. It doesn’t matter whether you are working with paid professionals or video volunteers, you’ve got to take care of the people who are taking care of your production.
But, take heed, because not all foods are equally effective in placating this sort of ravenous bunch. Do NOT just grab your smart phone to dial Dominos. The biggest problems with pizza are the same as it’s biggest advantages: because it is a fast, cheap and easy option, it is perceived as a fast, cheap and easy out. This sends a message to your team that they aren’t worth much thought, money or effort. People perform at whatever expectation you set for them, so treating your team members like valued pros will pay dividends as they rise to the occasion. So, before you plop down a pile of pepperoni pizzas and call the job done, consider these tips to help you put out a spread that will make your crew give you a 5-star review, and (even more importantly) come back to help you again in the future.
Before we delve into specific food recommendations, there are the ABC's of a few broad factors to take into account as you make your shopping list:
A good craft-services table has an array of options for hungry crew members to choose from. Don’t just buy six different kinds of chips. The goal isn’t merely to provide caloric fuel, but to offer appealing options. Set up a 6- or 8-foot table, and plan to fill it with a wide range of savory selections.
Even if you are on a tight budget, avoid stocking your table with off-brand items. It’s worth it to spend a few more cents on name brands. There are places where you can cut corners to save a buck, but food quality (and the perception of food quality) is not one of them. Get the good stuff.
Select foods that will stay fresh and appealing all day. Anything that stales, melts, sours, browns or crusts-over after a few hours is (literally) off the table. Trust me, that guacamole you put out at 10:00 a.m. won’t be very appetizing at 7:30 that night.
With those factors in mind, here are five food types to consider offering your crews.
1 - Fruit and granola bars:
Healthy options are a must on every table. Options like apples, bananas. and packaged granola or protein bars provide extended energy that will last through the day, and allow health conscious crew members to snack guilt-free. Fresh vegetable trays with carrots, broccoli and those tiny tomatoes are great as a mealtime side dish, but they need to be refrigerated between breaks if they aren’t fully consumed (see the guacamole reference above), so fruit is often a wiser solution.
2 - Packaged snacks:
In general, it’s best to avoid large bowls or bags of shared, open-air, “community” foods. In addition to being pawed by everyone’s grubby hands, items like chips and dips that are left open all day can go stale and lose their appeal. Individually packaged variations are a good option, and any extras can be saved for future shoots. Packs of snack crackers, chips, cookies, and nuts are fun, and they are easy for crew members to stash in their pockets in grab-and-go settings. Here again, options are your friend. Look for large variety packs of chips so your people can choose the kind they like best.
3 - Water, Water, Water!
It is extremely important that your crew stay hydrated throughout the day. While it is fine to offer a cooler of cold sodas, it is absolutely essential that you have a plethora of bottled water. Plan to have 3-4 bottles of cold water per crew member each day, and encourage everyone to partake.
4 - Sandwiches:
Instead of a generic lunch like pizza, take a sandwich order mid-morning and have an assistant make a run to a local sub shack. -- Letting the crew choose what they like lets them know that they are valued as individuals. It allows them to choose something they like, and lets them manage their own portion sizes. What the don’t finish at lunch they can wrap and save for later in the day.
5 - Candy, Cola and Coffee:
As much as we like to talk about healthy snack options, let’s face it, crews love these three C’s. Don’t underestimate the boost you can get late into the night or in the middle of a long afternoon by feeding the sweet tooth. Here again, pre-packaged candies are a great choice. Bite-sized chocolate bars, little packs of chewy, fruity nibblets, maybe even some wrapped mints or hard candies. Think about the kind of things that you’d find in your kid’s halloween bucket. It’s always a good idea to offer the option of a little caffeine buzz. A cold cola, a pot of fresh brew, or a run for lattes will always be welcomed by your team.
Whatever you choose to put on your food table, keep drinks and snacks out and available all day. That way your crew can graze and re-energize while you re-write lines of dialogue and do all that other important producer-type stuff.
Chuck Peters is a 3-time Emmy award winning writer and producer. He is currently VP of Production at KIDMO/Rivet Productions.