Food on the Road

in Editor's Note

PLSN editor Justin LangWhat is one of the most important aspects of touring, and also one of the things we’re most likely to take for granted? It is something that every single one of us requires, at a minimum, two times a day. Did the title give it away? That’s right, food!

For Justin Lang's video introduction to PLSN's Sept. 2013 issue, go to

This summer I have visited a number of tours, talking with production staff, locals and sometimes, if I am lucky, the bands. Every time, someone mentions, “Have you stopped by catering? They put out an amazing spread today.” To my delight, catering was never a disappointment!

I quickly learned that having prime rib or crab cakes for a meal was not something that the catering company just whips up.  In addition to talking to the various people on the production staff, I always make a point to take some time with the caterers.  They are honestly the best-kept secret of our business.

These guys work day and night to provide meals that cater to every taste and dietary need of everyone on the production.  Say you are a vegetarian and prefer organically grown fruits and vegetables. These guys go out of their way to make sure that option is available to you at every stop on the tour.

There are some out there who love a good hamburger and can eat that on a daily basis. One catering company found out that a member of the crew had the same taste.  Not only did they ensure that a hamburger was made for that crew member every day, but that it was perfectly cooked, seasoned and hot off the grill when it was time for him to eat. Talk about dedication!

Some might think that eating the same thing everyday would get old. Okay, almost everyone would get sick of it. The catering companies work to provide not only various entrees and side dishes for every meal, but a different main course each night.

The cook or purchasing agent on tour from the catering company plans their meals around local sources, depending on where the tour is each night.  Take, for instance, the DC area.  A number of the tours took advantage of being so close to fresh sea food and Maryland crabs. I can never get enough of a good crab cake! Also on the menu: fresh bass, pan seared scallops, a red meat item and always a vegetarian offering.

In terms of side dishes, there would be so many to choose from, you might think you stumbled into a mobile all-you-can-eat buffet. Which isn’t far from the truth. Even so, it’s always a good idea to only take what you can eat. While it seems endless, the catering companies do have to operate within a budget and feed so many people each night.

Did I mention the desserts? Nothing rounds out a good meal with out a nice piece of cake, pie, cookie and/or ice cream. These aren’t just bought-off-the-shelf items, either.  If there is a local source, they’ll use them. If not, and time allows, the caterers will make them themselves. Anyone else love a hot fresh apple pie a la mode?

Why is catering so important while on tour? Tours spend months at a time on the road.  And while on the road, time is money.  Unlike a typical job, crew members with a 40 minute break rarely have time to run out to the nearest McDonald’s. They probably couldn’t even find it in time, let alone find a car to borrow. Brown bagging it?  Remind me when there is time to hit up a grocery store, let alone a place to store all this food on a bus.

Food may be the last thing on a crew’s mind, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Catering companies deserve a huge thanks from everyone.  They spend countless hours preparing, cooking, ordering and sourcing meals. The morning call may have been 8am, but for these guys, it was hours beforehand.  You like having a hot breakfast, right?

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