Chester writes in:
I have my first PA gig next week, and I’m super nervous. I wanna come off looking like I know what I’m doing and not an amateur.
One of my duties is handling lunch for the days I’m working. How do you go about taking lunch orders? Do you hand out menus right at the scheduled time for lunch and then pick them up? Or do I take the orders in advance? Ask them want they want the day before we start shooting? I’m sorry if this seems like a stupid question but I want to be prepared and right now your website is helping me do that.
This is one of the times it’s OK to ask the coordinator. First, ask if it’s family style (i.e. a buffet spread) or individual orders. Also, confirm who you’re getting lunch for. You might just be ordering for the production office, or maybe the accountants, but it’s possible you’re getting food for the art department, post, and even writers,1 too.
Next, find out what your budget is. This is usually a per-person amount, but not always. If you’re lucky, you can go cheap one day (pizza!), spend a little extra the next (sushi!), and the accountants won’t complain.
If you’re ordering family-style, pick a place to eat, hopefully somewhere close to the studio. Choose a variety of items to order; remember, it’s not all about you. You’re the one doing the ordering, so go ahead and get your favorite dish, but don’t forget that not everyone likes what you like. You should get at least two meat dishes, a salad or two, and couple of meat-free dishes liek potatoes or rice.
Speaking of vegetarians, it never hurts to go around the office on the first day and ask if anyone has any dietary restrictions or strong preferences. You might get lucky and have no vegetarians; on the other hand, maybe half of them are “gluten free.” No matter what they say, don’t make any promises. Trying to please 10 to 30 people is a fool’s game. Keep the UPM and producers happy; everyone else can deal with the horror of getting a free lunch that’s not 100% catered to their taste.
Once you’ve settled on an order, take it to the coordinator for approval. If you’re good, she’ll sign off on it and give you the P-card (if you don’t have one yourself). If she has some suggestions… take them. Whatever the coordinator says goes.
Once the order is approved, call the restaurant the day before. A lot of places open at lunch; you don’t want to be calling at 9:00am, only to find out that no one’s there to take your call.
You’re going to want to pick up lunch about an hour before it’s served. Again, make sure you ask the coordinator when she wants to eat.
On the day, go to the restaurant, and check the order. There’s always something wrong, but that’s not their problem. It’s yours. If the order is wrong, you’re the one who gets shit from the boss. Make sure it’s not wrong.
If you’re getting individual orders for lunch, you should still get the location approved the day before. This saves annoying conversations the day of.
Print off menus first thing in the morning, but don’t start passing them out right away. Give people a chance to settle in for the day, probably a couple hours after call time.
Once you do pass out the menus, make sure you tell everyone what time you need the menu back. If you don’t they’ll wait until 15 minutes before they expect to eat. Again, allow enough time to place the order so it’s ready an hour before you want to eat.
Ask the restaurant if they’ll write names, or at least numbers, on each order. When you go to the restaurant, take the orders with you, so you can check the food.
Check with the coordinator if she wants the lunches distributed, or dropped at a central location (like the conference room). The central location is arguably easier, but honestly, I like passing them out. Everyone is grateful for the food, and even though it’s the studio’s money, you’re the face they associate with that happy feeling.
- This is usually the writer PA’s job, but not always.↩