8 Essential Tips for Prepping an Awesome Craft Services Table

Where there’s a film crew, there’s a craft services table a few feet away. Having well stocked food on set can directly affect your crew’s happiness and your film’s overall quality.

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But what exactly should you put on your craft services shopping list? And what last minute items will your grips hound you for?

Whether you’re hiring a craft services company or purchasing food on your own, we’ve compiled 8 essential rules.

Download our free craft services shopping list template for your production here.

8 Essential Tips for Your Craft Services Table (with free shopping list template) - Crafty Shopping List

Use this shopping list as a basis for your craft service needs. After you download that, check out our list on how to best optimize it.

1. Keep caterers away from the craft services table

There should be no shortage of food on set with meals and snacks coming from catering and craft services. But where does each start and end?

  1. Catering for film sets accounts for the hot, sit-down meals that usually occur twice a day. The keyword here is hot: sandwiches and subs are not meals, pizza barely cuts it. Catering is provided by a company or local restaurant and is a hearty, sit down affair. Not everyone can always break for catered meals, however. Depending on your talent’s status, special meals can be brought to set. Catered meals occur six hours after filming starts, with the next, six hours after that
  2. Craft services (provided by “Craftys”) makes up the snacks that keep the production running smoothly between meal breaks. Pizza, sandwiches, fresh fruit, cookies, and veggies are all fair game. Designated for the “crafts”–grips, costume department, make up artists, filming crews–who might not have time for a sit down meal, you can find anyone on set munching the goods here. Unlike catering, this is also a social space–the film set equivalent of a water cooler.

Manning a craft services table is a full time job. If you’re hiring a craft services company, hire a catering company as well. By dividing up your food services, you ensure the quality of one won’t suffer for the other.

Pro tip: Always ask for donations

If you’re strapped for cash or not, consider asking local restaurants and friends to provide food in exchange for a credit in the film. You’d be surprised what people will cook to get their name on the big screen.

2. Buy food in bulk

When budgeting your film for special effects and actors, food can easily slip your mind. But when most of your crew is working 16 hour days, food isn’t a luxury. It’s an absolute must.

You can’t skimp on the craft services budget. If you’re not hiring a company, you can easily buy supplies in bulk from a wholesale market and save money.

8 Essential Tips for Your Craft Services Table (with free shopping list template) - Craft Service Buy Bulk Food

Ralph’s, Sam’s Club, and Costco are great places to start browsing for your supplies.

Free craft services shopping list

To make this process easier, we’ve compiled a craft services shopping list template to get your craft service table off the ground ASAP. We also have a template version that you can modify to your production’s specific needs.

These are just some craft services ideas for you to bounce off of.

3. Account for allergies and diets

8 Essential Tips for Your Craft Services Table (with free shopping list template) - Craft Services Film Crew Food Allergy

When compiling your talent and crew’s personal information, be extra cautious to categorize everyone’s dietary needs. An allergic reaction is no way to start a film shoot.

In some film production software, you can easily note dietary needs of your crew and actors as you begin the process.

While you should have a variety of foods (more on that in a second), you need to make sure you carefully label your craft services table so everyone knows where to look for food.

Most common dietary restrictions:

  • Gluten-free diets
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Vegan diet
  • Vegetarian diet
  • Peanut allergies
  • Egg allergies
  • Shellfish allergies

If you’re preparing gourmet steak sandwiches, don’t just put out a sad platter of veggies and ranch for vegetarians.

Make sure the alternative food on set is always substantial, and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Pro tip: It's always better to ask

You can guess all you like about what you should order your for production. However, if you put out food that no one wants, don’t buy it again. This may seem simple, but when you’re flustered with a thousand tasks all due yesterday, these things can slip your mind.

Additionally, when inquiring about a crew’s restrictions, ask what they like to eat as well. This make your craft services shopping list airtight.

4. Fill your craft table with healthy options

One cannot live on a steady diet of pizza without dying of a fat person disease. Make sure your craft service table has a variety of snacks.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have cake. You need it. However, by giving your crew all the major food groups, you make sure that everyone feels full without feeling disgusting.

Popular healthy options:

  • Hummus
  • Baked chips
  • Fruit slices
  • Celery sticks
  • Baby carrots
  • Salad
  • Trail Mix

The list goes on…on our craft services shopping list template.

Great 1st ADs know a wholesome craft services menu keeps crew from lagging. Make sure that your catering for film sets also is healthy.

5. Be a creative crafty

There’s a lot of non-negotiables when it comes to assembling a craft service table, but that doesn’t mean you can’t but your own twist on it.

Craft service tables have grown increasingly artisan in the past ten years. Companies like David’s Gourmet Craft Services offer homemade flatbread pizzas all day long.

The only limit is your creativity and, um, budget. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Taco bars
  • Coffee Machines
  • Pizza bars
  • Fondue Fountains
  • Yogurt bar

But don’t get too crazy. If you find your food getting too hot and hearty, you’re encroaching on catering for film sets.

Pro tip: Don't get messy

It’s great to creative with your craft service tables. However, make sure you don’t put out anything too messy that could get all over your film set. Carefully monitor crew food that could easily spoil and try to purchase items that can stay out all shoot day long.

6. Follow instructions to the letter

8 Essential Tips for Your Craft Services Table (with free shopping list template) - Craft Services Always Have Coffee

If someone asks you to buy Coke, do not buy Pepsi. Craft services shopping lists are written specific for a reason.

It may be cheaper to buy off-brand, but you have to get brands specifically asked for. You can’t buy tea instead of coffee. On that note:

You must have coffee and water. 

At all hours of the day.

It’s non-negotiable.

Otherwise, people will murder each other and fall asleep on set.

Following directions down to the letter especially comes into play when dealing with difficult talent. Know the food that your talent cannot live without and make sure it’s on set.

While you can plan for this, be prepared to have a Crafty run to the store at any second for random foodstuffs.

7. Always back stock

Don’t put out all your crew food all at once.

You want to buy all of your craft services supplies at once, storing the rest in a fridge if needed. This will give the illusion of an endless banquet straight out of Harry Potter.

The portions you pick up from the store will often be too much for a crew member to grab quickly. So cut your food in half.

Turn cheese sticks into two, cut fruit into tiny pieces. This will encourage your crew to only take what they need and will save you money.

Pro tip: Always be on time

This rule may seem obvious, but with your film crew slaving away on set, the crew food must always be there a full half hour before anyone arrives to set. Additionally, the craft service table should remain open until the very last minute of the shoot.

It’s not uncommon for crew members to grab a Coke for their 2 am drive home.

8. Don't forget the non-foods

It’s easy to think of craft services as simply food. But you need a lot more than food to keep your production going. For one, you need to put the “table” in “craft services table.”

Some supplies that are always good to have on your craft services table are:

  • Sharpies
  • Pens
  • Highlighters
  • Printer paper
  • Stapler
  • Ice cooler
  • Extra bowls
  • Hole puncher
  • Extra binders
  • A printer
  • Chairs
  • Trash can
  • Trash bags

The craft services table is as much a social hotspot as it is a place to shove your face. It’s important to equip your crafts services table with anything you may need to keep crew members working and conversations running smoothly.

We’ve compiled a master list here and a template here that you can alter as you see fit.

If you outsource your craft services jobs, they may provide their own food service trailers. Make sure that you have space near the set for said food service trailers to park.

Pro tip: Keep your craft service table nearby

If your craft services table is too far away from set, you’ll waste time every time someone want to grab a bite to eat. By keeping your craft services table in close proximity, you can keep everyone on schedule.

Craft services cost and wrapping up

An important portion of your budget. But doesn’t have to break the bank.

Everyone from lighting grips to skinny PAs will come flocking to your craft services table. Keep in mind the tips outlined above to ensure you not only have enough crew food, but enough variety to keep your production happy.

Now if you could only lock down that location…

Are you hiring a craft services company for your shoot? Why or why not?

Use this free craft service table checklist to provide healthy options for your film production crew.

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AJ Unitas

AJ Unitas

Writer at StudioBinder
AJ Unitas is a Baltimore native turned Los Angeles wanderer. He enjoys good movies, hates the bad ones, and drinks water regularly. If you'd like to contact him, please don't!
AJ Unitas