Written by Danielle Smith • November 16, 2023
Film and TV shoots are about the details. The lighting. The camera angle. And the food served to the cast and crew to keep them energized throughout the day. Making sure that everyone is well-fed takes particular consideration of the type of food service provided, whether that’s catering or craft services.
But what’s the difference between catering and craft services in the entertainment industry? And how can you decide which one to use for your film or TV shoot? Read on to learn more so you can get the details exactly right.
The difference between catering and craft services comes down to food type, variety, amount, setting, and timing.
Catering means full meals provided around meal times. These meals don’t necessarily need to be consumed sitting down, however they generally benefit from being enjoyed without distraction or without needing to multitask, as they may require utensils. Examples of catering might be sandwiches, pasta, or salads, though are often warm foods like nachos, pizza, or soup.
Craft services means that all cast and crew members have snacks and drinks available to them throughout the day. They can simply walk up to the craft services table and select what they would like to eat in that moment. Examples of craft service foods include chips, nuts, cookies, pretzels, fruits, and vegetables. Craft services might also provide water, coffee, tea, soda, or juice for consumption.
Catering options generally offer a larger amount of food for the cast and crew of film or TV productions. Most catering companies produce full meals, not just snacks. This is so they can accommodate a large number of people, which may look like serving a buffet or handing out individually-wrapped servings.
A larger catered meal means that everyone on the production has a full stomach and no one needs to go hungry. With a warm meal, people generally feel like their appetite is satiated and that they don’t need to resort to snacking. Sit down meals, too, offer the team a chance to sit down over a meal and take a break from the hard work on set.
The downside to catering on a film or TV shoot is that, with hot meals, there needs to be planned logistics for when and where the cast and crew get to eat. No one likes eating the pasta that was cooked 12 hours ago and is being kept slightly warm by a single burner, so finding a time to take a break from production to eat when the food is fresh becomes essential for a good experience.
You’ll also need to find an appropriate space to set up catering, which might require a buffet line or enough table space for all of the options. If this space is only available across the lot or in another space far from where the shooting is happening, additional time may be needed to talk or drive over.
What could be more exciting than a snack table filled with dozens of different options? A good craft services table can play a strong role in maintaining high morale among the cast and crew because it gives them the chance to select exactly what they feel like eating at that moment.
Craft services used to only be available to those who had highly technical, time-consuming roles like boomer operators, make-up artists, camera workers, and more. These snacks had to be quick enough for them to grab on-the-go and satisfying enough to get them through the long hours of shooting. Now, craft services are available to all members of the production, but accessibility and convenience remain one of the top marks of a good spread.
Craft service tables are generally available to the cast and crew throughout the whole day of shooting, and they’re intended to be a quick boost that people need to keep going. However, if a person doesn’t have any breaks throughout the day, they might not be able to enjoy the snacks and beverages provided. Snack breaks are difficult to schedule and are at the discretion of the director, who gets to call the shots on the timing of breaks.
This can lead to some cast and crew members going hungry or not feeling like they’re getting a full meal, which can, in turn, impact their mood and their energy levels.
What you choose, whether a catering service or a craft services spread, depends entirely on your production. As with most cases of “this-or-that,” having both is the ideal situation. When you’re planning out the food for your film or TV shoot, make sure you check out your options on CaterCow, who have a wide range of cuisines found in your area.