Feature by: Mark Steinwachs
Photos courtesy of img stock
Video courtesy of Zagat

Mark Steinwachs spent 12 years on the road touring with all forms of music and theater acts and is now the General Manager at Bandit Lites, an industry leader in concert lighting production.

There are lots of little things that most people don’t think about when it comes to touring. One of them is food. This can be both good and bad. This week I’m going to look at, you guessed it, food and touring.

Local fare: When you tour all over the country (and the world), you get the chance to try regional food. California means In-n-Out Burger. Buffalo means wings (although you really should try Mighty Taco. As a Buffalo native that is my first stop when I go home, before I see my family!). Portland means Voodoo Donuts. Philly, you are getting cheesesteaks. Getting the picture here?

You can only eat so much chicken: Most tours have a rough meal plan in their rider, so you don’t get the exact same meals every day. But even so, there’s a lot of overlap. I’ve eaten more pasta and chicken dishes than you can imagine.

Catering budget and you: A good budget for catering means three hot meals a day. A lesser budget —well, it might be cereal and danishes for breakfast, deli tray for lunch, and a hot meal for dinner. Road life isn’t all puppy dogs and fairy tales.

Bad catering can shut down a tour: If you have something in catering that makes everyone sick (it’s very rare, but it does happen), it’s hard to do a show. Try working while having food poisoning—not gonna happen.

Two things that brought joy to my heart in catering …

Taco bar: A little slice of heaven. A taco bar may back up the line a bit in catering, but it is worth every minute of the wait.

Ice cream sundae bar: Again, it may be a bit of a wait, but what inner child doesn’t like making their own ice cream sundae for dessert?

Be on time, please: This affects breakfast the most. Roadies need to get to work. If you are late getting breakfast up, then some of the crew won’t be able to eat. It’s a bad way to start the day. If the rider says 7:30, that doesn’t mean start setting up at 7:30. It means be ready to feed the hungry guys that wear black.

Choose your after-show food wisely: I love French fries—love them—but as a lighting guy I never got to eat them for bus food. They were always cold by the time I got to them, and there is no way to bring a cold French fry back to life. Subs are generally a safe bet, but they can be messy if you get them with the “fixins” on the side to make your own. Pizza is hit or miss. I don’t care what people say about bad pizza still being good, it’s not true. Bad pizza is a sucky way to end the night. Lean on your local production staff to find out about the good places to get food from. Also, make sure there is enough to go around. If you order the exact amount of subs for each person to get one, or that each person gets two slices of pizza, make sure everyone is aware of that. It sucks to get on the bus (again, lighting guy here. First in, last out) and have the after-show food all gone.

It’s all about the band (but don’t forget about the crew): We know that the reason we have jobs is because of the band we are touring with. Of course they have the say on what and how much catering, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the crew. If the band doesn’t care what drinks are in catering, why don’t you find out some of things the crew likes (read: Mtn. Dew for me)? There are some tours that have very particular rules about catering and that’s fine. Usually you know them going into it, and you took the gig, so deal with it. Oftentimes it’s as simple as it’s a vegetarian tour or a no-alcohol tour. There are even some tours where this applies to days off! I do not believe in such things. Days off are mine. If I want to go get a drink, I will (I just won’t do it on the bus or in the hotel).

I’ll toss in one more and call it a day.

Never underestimate the power of soup: A cup of soup with lunch on a chilly load-in day is a little thing that can go a long way (no split pea or French onion for me, though).

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