US 3610458 A
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United States Patent  Inventor Robert Nissley Brookfield, Conn.  Appl. No. 855,547  Filed Sept. 5, 1969  Patented Oct. 5, 1971  Assignee Cease Central, Inc.
 FOOD PACKAGE WITH SERVICE PLATE COVER 4 Claims, 2 Drawing Figs.
 U.S. Cl 220/23.4, 220/2383  Int. Cl 865d 21/02  Field of Search... 220/20, 23.4, 23.6, 23.8, 23.83, 23.86, 97; 206/56 A, 65
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,107,027 10/1963 Hong 220/23.8
3,124,241 3/1964 Holley 206/65 X 3,240,610 3/1966 Cease 220/97 X 3,310,334 3/1967 Murphy 220/234 Primary Examiner-George E. Lowrance Attorney-Christel & Bean ABSTRACT: A food package including a substantially flat container holder having openings for receiving food containers. The food containers are provided with flanges at their upper edges supported by one side of the holder and peripheral beads spaced from the flanges and extending parallel thereto for engagement behind the other side of the holder with a snap fit. A food service plate is adapted to be inverted over the tops of the containers to serve as a cover for the food package. The service plate has an inturned bead which engages over the outer edge of the holder with a snap tit and the bottom surface of the service plate bears against the flanges of the food containers to seal and isolate them from each other and retain them in the holder.
PATENTEU um s IBTI INVENTOR. ,QOBEQT N/SSLEV W 43 ATTODIVEYS FOOD PACKAGE WITII SERVICE PLATE COVER BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to the packaging, storage and service of food products and, more particularly, to a new and improved food package assembly comprising a prepared meal.
Previously prepared, packaged foods are extremely convenient and have found increasing acceptance in recent years in large-scale food-servicing operations such as cafeterias commissaries, hospitals, and the like, and also in domestic use. Also, such previously prepared packages can be conveniently dispensed from vending machines. In some cases such packages comprise a frame for holding a plurality of separable and interchangeable food containers for individual food portions and a service plate upon which the food is distributed and served upon being removed from the package and which serves as the cover for the package.
The food containers are usually slip fitted in suitable apertures in the frame and are supported only by annular flanges resting on the frame so that care must be exercised in handling to avoid displacement of the food containers relative to the frame and spillage of the food contents. Also, the frame or holder for supporting the food containers is generally formed of an expensive plastic material molded to form various complex shapes and configurations to provide support skirts, cavities embossments, and the like for adequately supporting the food containers.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The food package of the present invention, as hereinafter described, obviates the above disadvantages by providing a simple, inexpensive, flat food container holder which can be formed of any substantially rigid or self-sustaining material and inexpensively fabricated by a simple stamping operation. Also, the individual food containers and the service plate cover of the present invention are releasably secured to the holder with a snap-fit engagement.
Generally speaking, the food package of the present invention comprises a flat holder having openings therein for receiving food containers of various predetermined shapes and sizes. The food containers have outwardly extending flanges at their upper ends supported on the upper side of the holder adjacent such openings. Peripheral beads are provided on the outer walls of the food containers and closely spaced from the holder parallel to the flanges for snap-fltting engagement at the lower side of the holder adjacent the openings. An inverted service place serves as a cover for the good package and is provided with an internal bead spaced slightly from the bottom surface of the plate for snap-fitted engagement over the outer edge of the holder to form a compact, tightly secured food package.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. I is a bottom plan view, with parts broken away and parts removed, of one form of the food package of the present invention; and
FIG. 2 is a vertical sectional view taken along line lI-ll of FIG. 1.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now in detail to the illustrative embodiment of the present invention depicted in the accompanying drawing, there is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 a food package comprising a holder adapted to receive a plurality of food containers, as hereinafter described, and a cover therefor comprising an inverted service plate 12. The holder [0 comprises a substantially relatively rigid, flat plate of generally square configuration in plan having marginal side edges 14 and rounded corners 16 and a plurality of openings 18, 20, and 22 for receiving food containers such as those designated 24 and 26.
Only one food container 26 is illustrated in the drawings, it being understood that a second food container, similar to container 26, is normally placed in opening 22. Of course, holder 10 may be of any other suitable configuration such as circular or oval, as desired, the distinguishing factor being that such holder is substantially flat, having opposite planar surfaces In any event, service plate 12 will be shaped according to the contour of holder 10, or vice versa. Such holders can be economically formed by a simple stamping operation thereby minimizing the cost of manufacture, Holder 10 may be formed of any durable, substantially rigid material, such as plastic, treated cardboard, or the like, capable of withstanding the temperatures required to refrigerate or freeze the food and to heat the food to the desired temperature.
Food container 24 is provided with a downwardly tapered wall 30 terminating in a bottom wall 32. A peripheral shoulder 34 projects inwardly from wall 30 and extends along the inner sgrface of wall 30. Food container 24 is the largest of the three and is adapted for holding meat or any other entree. Such entrees often include gravy or sauce which should preferably be poured over them at the time of serving. To this end, the bottom wall 32 of container 24 is provided with a series of upstanding projections 36 defining a well area 38 therebetween for containing the gravy or sauce therein.
The upper edges of projections 36 may lie in a common plane with peripheral shoulder 34 and cooperate therewith to support a serving of meat, or whatever the entree might be, and hold the same above the gravy, sauce or other food substance contained in well 38. The upper edge of wall 30 defines the open end of food container 24 and is provided with a flange 40 projecting laterally outwardly from such open end and adapted to be supported upon the upper surface of holder 10.
Means are provided for releasably securing or interlocking food container 24 to holder 10, such means comprising a peripheral rib or head 42 extending along the outer surface of wall 30 and slightly below and parallel to flange 40. The container 24 is sufficiently resilient so that bead 42 may snap into place below the lower surface of holder 10 adjacent to open ing 18 to releasably secure food container 24 in holder l0. If desired a plurality of detents or protrusions may be used in lieu of peripheral head 42.
In the present instance food containers 26 are interchangeable in the openings 20 and 22 and are of a generally cup shape having a downwardly tapered wall 44 terminating in a flat bottom wall 46. Generally, one such container holds a vegetable and the other a starch food, such as potatoes for example. Containers 26 have outwardly extending flanges 48 projecting from the open ends thereof and interlocking means in the form of peripheral beads 52 spaced below and parallel to flanges 48 for snap fit engagement beneath the lower surface of holder 10 adjacent openings 20 and 22, respectively.
If desired, food containers 26 may be provided with upstanding projections similar to projections 36 of food container 24 to provide wells for holding butter, sauce or other liquid food substances. Thus, either of the food containers 26, or both, can be provided with such wells, or they can be left plain, without means for separating food components and accordingly adapted for use with food substances which do not include a separate liquid component of a type normally poured thereover at the time of service. Food containers 24 and 26 can be formed of the same material as holder 10, or any other suitable material capable of withstanding the temperatures required to freeze and/or heat the particular food to the desired temperature. However, the thickness of the food containers may be substantially thinner than the thickness of holder 10 due to the manner in which the containers are supported in the present novel package.
Service plate 12, which serves as a cover for the assembled package as shown in Fig. 2, comprises a substantially flat planar portion 60 comprising the bottom wall of the plate and in the present instance has an external rim 62 about the periphery of planar portion 60. A vertical wall portion 64 extends from rim 62 and an annular head 66 extends radially inwardly from the wall portion 64. An outwardly sloping skirt 68 extends from bead 66 and is joined at its outer end to a laterally projecting flange 70 which is disposed at the top margin of the plate when the latter is in its normal position of use as a plate. Service plate 12 also may be formed of the same material as holder but may be of a lesser thickness since service plate 12 does not normally require the same degree of rigidity as holder 10.
With the package completely assembled, as shown in FIG. 2, food containers 24 and 26 are disposed in openings 18, 20 and 22 of holder 10 with the flanges of the containers bearing against the upper surface of holder 10 adjacent the openings therein and with the beads 42 and 52 snap fitted into engagement beneath the lower surface of holder 10 adjacent the openings. The material of containers 24 and 26 is slightly resilient to facilitate snap-in assembly.
Service plate 12 is inverted over holder 10 with portions of the inner surface of planar portion 60 bearing against flanges 40 and 48 of the food containers whereby such containers are covered by the plate and completely sealed or isolated from each other. The annular bead 66 of service plate 12 is snapfitted over the marginal edge of holder 10 for securing service plate 12 thereon and providing a tight, compact package releasably secured together for ease of storage and handling.
In use, food may be previously prepared and placed in the food containers which are then mounted in holder 10 with service plate 12 inverted thereof to make up a complete food package. The package may be stored in either a refrigerated or frozen condition and subsequently heated in conventional ovens or microwave ovens to the proper service temperature for consumption. If desired, the food containers may be separately stored and the package assembled just prior to heating and serving. In either case, the package is heated until the food reaches the proper service temperature. In some instances there may be no heating step where the foods involved are to be served cold or at room temperature.
The package is then inverted from the position shown in FIG. 2. When this is done, service plate 12 will be right side up, and food containers 24 and 26 will be inverted thereover. Such inverting of the package pours the gravy or sauce contained in wells 38 over the entree in container-24 at the moment of service, and pours the butter or other liquid food substance that might be disposed in containers 26 over the vegetables therein. Thus the service plate 12 with the entree and vegetables thereon has the appearance of freshly served food. The holder 10 is then unsnapped from within plate 12 and the holder and containers 24 and 26 are jointly lifted from service plate 12, which is then ready to be served to the consumer. Food containers 24 and 26 may be reused or they may be of a disposable type, as desired.
As a result of the present invention, simple improved food package assembly is provided for storing, transporting, heating and serving food in a more efficient manner than heretofore. By the provision of a simple, flat, planar food container holder, the holder simple be easily formed by a simple stamp ing operation thereby eliminating complex and expensive molds and manufacturing equipment. Also, the holder can be made of any generally rigid material to further realize manufacturing economies. By the snap fit arrangement of the food containers to the holder and the service plate to the holder, a tightly secured compact package is obtained which individually seals and isolates each food container from the others to prevent the transmission of food flavors or odors from one container to another.
A preferred embodiment of this invention having been described and illustrated in the drawing, it is to be understood that modifications thereof can be made without departing from the broad spirit and scope of this invention.
1. A food package comprising: a substantially flat holder lying wholly in a single plane having a plurality of openings; removable food containers received in said openings and having outwardly projecting flanges extending about their upper edges and disposed upon the top surface of said holder; and a separable food service plate inverted to overlie said holder and having a flat central portion adapted to bear against the flanges of said food containers; said food service plate having a groove about the interior thereof adapted to snap fit over the outer edge of said holder and thus retain said flat portion of said service plate in sealing and retaining engagement with the upper surfaces of the flanges of said containers.
2. A food package according to claim 1 wherein said food containers have means spaced below said flanges to engage the under side of said flat holder for releasably interlocking said food containers to said holder with a snap fit.
3. A food package according to claim I wherein said interlocking means of said food containers comprise projections extending outwardly from said food containers for snap-fitting engagement beneath said holder adjacent said openings.
4. A food package according to claim I wherein said snap fit means of said service plate groove is formed by a bead extending inwardly of the side wall of said service plate and spaced from the flat central portion thereof.