In addition to the many challenges faced in food and beverage management at a large conference, I was once faced with a vocal crew who criticized the prior year’s menus in regards to diversity, presentation, and taste. While crew meals are often overlooked and at times ignored, we decided to take a closer look.
Why are Crew Meals So Important?
Consider crew work as the first touch of how the show feels. If crews are happy and well fed, it stands to reason that they’ll be on track per set up schedule with high morale and camaraderie as distinguishing features. Each day that logs a productive set up sets the right tone for the event over all.
The potential fallout of unattractive, repetitive, lackluster food can be disastrous. With only an occasional reprieve in a hectic day, the crew meal is truly one of the few things to look forward to during the 12-hour plus shift, save day’s end. If meals are not something the crew looks forward to, teams will often skip meals in order to finish the job, end early, and find a restaurant.
This not only impacts budget (meals are paid for twice), but affects quality, performance, and morale. As the last minute shuffle often involves working overnight — another budget impact — this can weaken if not obliterate morale. By the time the actual show rolls around, crews are depleted and cantankerous.
However, when menus are of a high quality in taste, diversity, and appearance, the results equate to a crew that not only looks forward to meals, but finds the meal break relaxing, nourishing, and energizing. Taking care of a crew is tangible proof of respect and gratitude for their hard work and input, and actually yields successful shows.
Below are several ways you can ensure your crews are well fed with diverse and quality food:
- Treat the crew as an attendee. This means offering the same level of menu variety and flavor profile, presentation, customer service and hospitality. For example, I’ve worked with the caterer to post daily menu options written in a fun and upbeat way.
- Assign dedicated servers to each crew area. In a sea of unfamiliar faces, it’s a welcome reprieve to have the same staff on hand throughout set up, event days and strike. These dedicated teams will form a genuine partnership with the crews and this additional step ensures their well-being.
- Develop nourishing menus from a wide variety of food and look for synergies during show days without serving crews attendee leftovers. If you proactively develop menus up front and look for opportunities, you’ll find them.
- Be sure to include menu upgrades, such as made to order eggs, omelet station, carved beef, and upscale desserts. Each meal should offer multiple choices of protein, vegetarian, salad and/or fresh fruit.
From experience, I’ve made sure crew rooms were an inspiring restful place for teams to unwind or recharge and enjoy themselves. The results: Not only did the crew rave about the food, they eagerly checked the menu for the next day and were genuinely interested in “eating” on site.