FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to trays using for carrying items, and more particularly to trays used in the food and hospitality industry with an improved stability when in use by an individual such as a server.
In the food and beverage service industry it is important that customers are served with their orders as quickly as possible. This is a particular problem during peak times when restaurants or bars can be crowded with customers. The problems arise from both the number of orders being placed, and the difficulty in accessing the customer who placed the order due to crowding in aisles and walkways.
One known way in which the server may deliver more items than they are capable of carrying unaided in their hands is with the use of a tray. A typical tray comprises a supporting surface that is flat on both the upper surface where the items being carried are placed, and flat on the lower surface where the server supports the tray with a hand. The disadvantage with such trays is that it requires the server to balance the tray carrying items to be served on their hand. The difficulty with the balancing is that as items are removed from the upper surface of the tray the server must continually adjust the balancing of the tray on their hand. An error in this balancing will result in the tray being upset and the items on the tray being spilled, possibly resulting in further delay in delivering the ordered items to customers. Upsetting the balance of such a tray can also result in containers such as china and glassware, whether full or empty, from falling and breaking.
A further difficulty arises when putting down or picking up such a tray. Since the tray is usually carried by balancing on one hand the server typically is required to slide the tray on and off their hand in order to place it on a surface such as a table. In order to slide the tray it must be tilted which can result in additional spillage of the liquids such as drinks in glasses on the tray. This may be overcome by holding the tray with two hands rather than balancing the tray. However, such operation requires both hands of the server arid prevents the server from carrying two trays simultaneously.
As an additional problem at the busiest times in a restaurant or bar a server may have to negotiate through a crowded room with a loaded tray balanced on their hand. A small bump or knock of the server in such a crowded room can result in the server losing their balance control of the tray sitting on their hand with the result that the items resting on the tray can be upset and spill off the tray. Some trays have sides extending upwardly from the edge of the supporting surface of the tray in order to reduce the risk of items carried on the tray from falling off if the tray is only slightly upset or to prevent materials spilled on the tray from running off the edge. These upwardly extending edges are occasionally painted with a logo or brand that can be seen as the tray passes through the bar or restaurant.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, there is a need in the food and hospitality industry for a tray with improved stability in use to prevent spillage and continual readjustment of balance, can be operated simply with one hand and is inexpensive to manufacture, and can work in limited space.
The present invention provides a tray having improved stability in use thereby providing an economic benefit in fewer breakages or spillage of items to be served as well as improved service to customers. In addition, the tray having at least one downwardly extending projection can be used to promote goods or services when in use by attachment of advertisements to that downwardly extending projection.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
A preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a tray having improved stability in use. The improved stability tray includes a carrying portion having a substantially planar upper face for supporting items, and a lower face adapted to be supported by a server or operators hand. That lower face has at least one fixed and downwardly extending projection providing stable support for the tray when deposited on a surface by the operator. The at least one downwardly extending projection permits removal and entry of the operator's hand for support of the lower face when the tray is deposited on the surface.
In drawings which illustrate by way of example only a preferred embodiment of the invention,
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the lower side of a preferred embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 is a side view of the preferred embodiment of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is another side view of the preferred embodiment of FIG. 1 in which the opening an opening in the downwardly extending support member is seen.
FIG. 4 is a plan view of the preferred embodiment of FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the preferred embodiment of FIG. 1.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention the tray 1 includes a lower face 10 having at least one fixed and downwardly extending projection providing stable support for the tray when deposited on a surface by the operator as shown in FIG. 1. As can be seen from FIGS. 1 and 4, an embodiment of the invention includes a carrying portion 2 for supporting items on the tray such as glassware or food and beverage items. The carrying portion has a substantially planar upper face 3 on which the items to be supported can stand and be stable. One skilled in the art will appreciate that the substantially planar upper surface does not need to be completely planar but may in fact have a slightly ridged surface for increasing frictional interaction between the items being carried and the upper face 3. An alternative embodiment of the invention could include a frictional material adhered to the upper face 3 to achieve improved gripping of the items being carried. Examples of such material could be rubber or plastic mats which may be placed either permanently or temporarily on the upper face 3. Improved friction on the upper face will prevent or reduce the risk of smooth items such as glassware or china slipping across the upper face 3 of the carrying portion 2.
In a further embodiment of the invention the upper face 3 is surrounded by a lip 4 extending upwardly for the purpose of reducing spills from the tray of any liquids that may have slopped onto the upper face 3.
As can been seen in the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1, the carrying portion 2 also has a lower face 5 adapted to be supported by an user or servers hand. The lower face 5 may be flat or contoured. The lower face 5 in the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 has a downwardly extending projection 11 at its outer rim of a depth greater than the thickness of a servers hand and forearm such that when the tray 1 is deposited on a surface by the server, the server's hand and forearm do not need to touch that surface. As can be seen in FIGS. 1 and 3, the downwardly extending projection 11 has an opening 12 in it to allow for entry of the servers hand and forearm to support or withdraw support of the lower face 5 by the server's hand. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3 it is apparent that the downwardly extending projection 11 is not vertical and it does not need to be vertical. The downwardly extending projection 11 provides stable support for the tray when deposited on a surface by the server, while permitting removal and entry of the server's hand for support of the lower face 5 when the tray 1 is deposited on the surface. In other embodiments of the invention the downwardly extending projection 11 could, instead of being a single extension be comprised of two or more downwardly extending projections that provide stable support for the tray when deposited on a surface by the server, while permitting removal and entry of the server's hand for support of the lower face 5 when the tray 1 is deposited on the surface. Similarly, the location of the at least one downwardly extending projections 11 does not need to be at the periphery of the lower face 5 of the tray.
In an embodiment of the invention shown in FIGS. 1-4, the downwardly extending projection 11 is flared slightly outwardly going from the carrying portion 2 to the base of the downwardly extending projection 11. This flaring can be as little as 20 from the vertical with a three inch deep downwardly extending projection of the type shown in the figures. This slight outward flaring from the carrying portion 2 allows multiple trays of this type to be stacked on top of one another in an interlocking fashion, several trays high. Depending upon the depth of the downwardly extending projections 11 and the angle at which it is flared, these stacked trays can be used to carry items to be served between the stacked trays 1.
In an embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1 the lower face 5 also includes a hand and forearm impression 20 with the impression for the hand being approximately centered on the lower face 5 of the tray 1. This hand and forearm impression 20 on the lower face 5 restricts lateral movement of the server's hand and allows the servers hand to grip the impression 20. The effect of the forearm and hand impression 20 is to improve balance and alleviate muscle strain while carrying the tray. The forearm and hand impression 20 can be of such a size and depth that it will accommodate all hand sizes while still allowing the server to easily place and remove their hand from the lower face 5 without having to angle or lean the tray 1. Further, one skilled in the art will appreciate that the hand and forearm impression 20 can be of such a size and depth that it will provide support for the tray 1 when placed on a surface thereby functioning as a downwardly extending projection to support the tray 1. As can be seen in the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1, the forearm and hand impression 20 includes both a right and a left thumb impression 22 so that both right and left handed servers can comfortably use the tray. Further, the forearm and hand impression 20 has in this embodiment, extending across that impression a finger strap 30 to hold the hand vertically within the forearm and hand impression 20. In this embodiment the server then has the option of bridging their fingers against the strap as a support mechanism when balancing and maneuvering the tray. Many different shapes or structures could be used on the lower face 5 of the carrying surface 2 to prevent sideways and/or vertical movement of the server's hand when using the tray.
In FIG. 2 it can be seen in this embodiment of the invention that the downwardly extending projection 11 includes optionally an indentation 25. This indentation 25 can be used to insert and support advertising strips which ideally are interchangeable. In the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2, the indentation 25 has at the upper edge and lower edge grooves around the upper and lower outer edges of the downwardly extending projection 11 into which the interchangeable advertising strips can slide and be held. Alternative means can be used to hold such advertising strips in place, for example the use of magnetised advertising strips when the downwardly extending projection 11 is made of metal.
While only specific embodiments of the invention have been described, it is apparent that variations can be made thereto. It is, therefore, the intention in the appended claims to cover all such variations as may fall within the true scope of the invention.
Various embodiments of the present invention having been thus described in detail by way of example, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that variations and modifications may be made without departing from the invention. The invention includes all such variations and modifications as fall within the scope of the appended claims.