Craft service refers to the catering done for the cast, crew, and extras working for film and television production companies. Cast, crew, and extras choose snacks and beverages from a specific table buffet-style.
Full meals are not usually provided on set as there are often many restaurants in the area and studios have at least a coffee shop. The lunch break is typically an hour, unlike the half hour usually given for on location shoots. Situation comedies, or sitcoms, do typically provide catered hot meals once a week, on live taping days. The cast, crew, and extras eat a few hours before the show starts taping.
Craft service items vary widely depending on the production firm's budget. Most craft service tables include a mixture of junk food such as chips and doughnuts as well as sandwiches, fruit or vegetable platters, cheeses, muffins, and pretzels or microwave popcorn. Usually hot water is available to prepare instant soup and hot chocolate mixes as well as tea. Most craft service areas include urns of coffee as well as sodas and juices. Breakfast offerings usually include fare such as bagels, toast, muffins, cereal, peanut butter and jelly, juices, and coffee.
Sometimes catering trucks are used for bigger productions with a lot of extras. The extras may or may not get sandwiches from a craft service table while the cast and crew receive hot meals. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) members wait in line before other extras, and cast and crew wait ahead of all extras. This is not purely a matter of ranking order, but also scene scheduling. Extras, unlike the cast, and especially the crew, are not needed on set all of the time.
Persons wanting to work in craft service should be cheerful, easy going, and well-organized. Creativity is helpful in thinking of new snack ideas that do not break the budget. Knowledge of food safety is important and many states have requirements for food safety certificates. The best caterers do their best to try and consider the needs of those they serve when planning the foods and beverages for their craft service tables. Many good craft service personnel keep a supply of extra items such as over the counter pain relievers, sunscreen, maxipads, birthday candles, and other such items just in case someone asks!