Setting up production is hard! There’s so much to plan for and (usually) so little time. While the elements in front of the camera are an obvious concern, don’t overlook the well-being and morale of your cast and crew. One colleague recalled a production where they were served nothing but Panda Express for all 18 days of production. That’s a lot of Panda Express even for people who love Panda Express. The film, ahem, has yet to be released.

When resources are scarce, one of the best ways to incentivize your collaborators is through their taste buds and stomachs. Full crew, happy crew! Follow these quick guidelines to make sure your Craft Services (and Catering) serve to boost morale rather than bring it down.  

1. Always have hot coffee on set.

Coffee (and hot water/tea) is something most people expect on set; it’s part of their morning routines. Not having coffee on set at the start of an early day is a major no-no. Have plenty ready to go pre-call and keep it coming all day long. This is all the more true in cold weather.

Commercial coffee makers are cheap to rent and easy to operate. If you and your colleagues have multiple projects planned, consider buying one. Just be sure to note the power requirements, especially if you’re heading to a remote location. Brush up on how to brew a pot if you aren’t familiar and make sure your PAs know too. Old school thermoses (or is it thermosi?) and airpots are highly underrated means of transporting joe to various places on set. Remember to get insulated cups and a sharpie for people to mark them (and to cut down on waste).

Even if you have a dedicated caterer and craftie person, it makes sense to note the location of the nearest Starbucks (or Heine Brothers if you’re in Louisville:) and 7-11 for every location on your schedule. They can save your tail in case of an emergency.

2. Don’t be late with lunch.

No matter the budget, run your show like a pro. That means meal breaks every six hours. Not following this protocol can cost you down the road in more ways than one. Asking for 15 minutes of grace if you’re in the middle of an important moment is acceptable, but not a good habit to form. If you go more than six hours after lunch, provide your crew a second meal. Be proactive, keep your crew informed, and order meals ahead of time as soon as you know there’s a good chance of going over. That’s another thing to note near every location by the way: The nearest places that can whip together second meals on short notice.

3. You can never have too much water…

Especially in hot conditions. Don’t rely on the location’s water source (pre-scout that of course) and be sure to bring plenty of your own. Bottled water is one option, but a more eco (and cost) efficient one may be finding a company such as Louisville Pure Tap that can provide you with free reusable bottles and coolers. Again, don’t forget the sharpies for people to mark their bottles!

4. Have vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options.

This includes snacks as well as lunch. Ask ahead of time – like when you’re hiring – if anyone has dietary restrictions or food allergies. It may sound sound like a hassle, but it will save you time in the long run if you have lots of good options. Watch the sugar too. Some is good. More is not better.

5. Have something to nosh on right away.

Many productions serve a courtesy breakfast prior to call. If this is beyond your budget, try to at least have some healthy snacks available at the start of the day. Apples, bananas, nuts, and granola bars are great options for maintaining energy. This gesture requires minimal effort and expense, yet will have a big impact on inspiring your crew to give it their all.