1) Offer a single beverage option
Providing water is important on film sets. Costco sells tiny bottles of water that cost only a few cents each. These days a can of soda costs about 50 cents from the grocery store. Even on sale soda beverages adds up fast. Think about it this way. Even a small production with a dozen crew members filming for 30 days. If everyone drinks 3 beverages a day on average for 30 days the crew alone is going to consume over one thousand cans of soda. That’s the best case. Keep things simple and offer just small waters. You can devote resources to other move important things and keep the craft services budget manageable. A side note you might want to provide coffee which is actually fairly inexpensive if done properly. This will also prevent runs to the local Starbucks which is a diversion from time that should be spent on set.
2) Only offer healthy snacks
This is another unpopular option but you will need significantly less money because people consume less when it’s healthy. Snacks can include carrots, apples, oranges, bananas and nuts. Be sure the nuts are not salted and not flavored. It sucks but think of this as fuel not rewarding the team with yummy.
3) Keep call times under 8 hours
There is a mentality to have long days when making low budget indie films. But keep in mind that this will require two meals. If the production only needs to provide a single meal this will cut the kraft services budget in half. An argument can be made that if the crew is rested they will be more productive anyway. Running behind schedule and needed to keep filming causes a mad rush to find a second meal and this makes it impossible to keep costs down. I have worked on indie productions under a million dollars and this happened a lot due to not being organized. Directors and DP’s being meticulous and taking too long to get shots in the can. Then the only option was to buy pizza or cheese burgers because everything else is closed.
4) Lunches cost less than Dinners.
Sandwiches and salads are much less expensive than providing dinner options. So when scheduling try to avoid a schedule where the meal break takes place around dinner time. Late filming days if they start after dinner time sandwiches make for a perfect meal. Day shots be sure they start early enough so the production wraps before it’s dinner time.
5) Pasta Is Cheap
Pasta bars are actually very popular and cheap. Spaghetti and meat sauce is very inexpensive to make even if you include salad and garlic bread. I have done film productions where ravioli was the most popular request. Ravioli is good because vegetarians can eat it also. Even fancier options like fettuccine alfredo is cheaper than most meat and potato meals.
6) Grilling is easy
Another very popular dinner option is cheese burgers and hotdogs. This is quick and easy to do at locations where a kitchen isn’t available or if the set is far from the caterer. We used a Caterer In Scottsdale who had a 100 mile radius from not all of them are so flexible. Frozen burgers and hotdogs are easy to keep in a cooler and can be cooked in bulk. I worked on a film set once and we made chili on set, filming a western. They had me stirring the chili with a tree branch because they didn’t want the beans to burn from the burner. I think we used once of those turkey fryer contraptions with a propane tank. It actually came out yummy but it was a lot more work and not particularly cheaper to serve.
7) Negotiate a meal into the price of renting restaurant locations.
Many films have scenes in restaurants if you have to rent a location a lot of times if you order enough food they will give you the location for free. Getting two birds with one stone saves a lot of time on travel and worrying about logistics. Just keep in mind if the production consistently goes over schedule that restaurants want you out if they have public service scheduled so you might end up with a working lunch to get all the footage in the can.