Title:
FOOD SERVING TRAY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a food serving tray to be used at formal and informal parties. The food serving tray could be made from plastic, ceramic, glass, or other similar material. The food serving tray has a beverage compartment, a handle and a food compartment to allow an individual to pick-up and carry food and a beverage in one hand.



Inventors:
Cox, Lanita (Sunwanee, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/372560
Publication Date:
08/20/2009
Filing Date:
02/17/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/562
International Classes:
B65D1/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PAGAN, JENINE MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DURHAM JONES & PINEGAR (SALT LAKE CITY, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A food serving tray, comprising: a beverage receptacle; a food receptacle; and a handle protruding outwardly from an outer edge of the tray, the handle being configured to provide a generally horizontal portion for gripping by an individual.

2. The food serving tray of claim 1, wherein the handle includes a plurality of support structures.

3. The food serving tray of claim 2, wherein the plurality of support structures are ribs that extend across the handle and join with the food receptacle.

4. The food serving tray of claim 1 wherein the handle is substantially co-planar with the upper surface of the food tray.

5. The food serving tray of claim 1 where the handle further comprises at least one of the group consisting of ergonomic spacing between the ribs, bumps, ridges, and coatings.

6. The food serving tray of claim 1 further comprising a coating on the ribs.

7. The food serving tray of claim 6, wherein the coating is a rubberized coating.

8. The food serving tray of claim 1, further comprising an upper surface and a lower surface with the handle extending outwardly from the upper surface, and wherein the lower surface and the upper surface are sufficiently spaced to allow the thumb and fingers of a person to grip the handle on opposite sides, when the lower surface is resting on an object, without disturbing the lower surface's contact on which said lower surface has been placed.

9. The food serving tray of claim 1, wherein the diameter of the beverage receptacle is slightly larger than the diameter of a standard aluminum beverage can.

10. The food serving tray of claim 1, further comprising at least a second food receptacle.

11. A food serving tray comprising: a beverage receptacle; a food receptacle; a handle, wherein the handle is substantially co-planar with the upper surface of the food serving tray; and wherein the handle contains support structures that extend from the edge of the handle to the food receptacle.

12. The food serving tray of claim 11, where the support structures are ribs.

13. The food serving tray of claim 12, further comprising ergonomic spacing between ribs.

14. The food serving tray of claim 11, further comprising a coating on the handle, configured to provide increased grip to an individual using the tray.

15. The food serving tray of claim 11, where the food serving tray is formed from at least one of glass, plastic and ceramic material.

16. The food serving tray of claim 11, where the food serving tray is configured to stack with similar food serving trays.

17. The food serving tray of claim 11, where the food receptacle has a clam-shaped or scalloped design.

18. A food serving tray, comprising: a beverage receptacle; a food receptacle; and a handle protruding outwardly from the tray, the handle including a plurality of ribs.

19. The food serving tray of claim 18, wherein the ribs extend across the handle and join with the food receptacle.

20. The food serving tray of claim 18, wherein the beverage receptacle is configured to provide support to an aluminum can.

Description:

PRIORITY

The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/029,516, filed Feb. 18, 2008, which is incorporated herein in its entirety by reference.

FIELD

The present invention relates to a food serving tray for holding both food items and beverage items. More specifically, the invention relates to an improved food tray that is configured to allow an individual to carry a meal and a beverage with one hand, and for the food tray to rest securely on one's lap or on another generally flat surface.

BACKGROUND

While entertaining or hosting an occasion such as a dinner party, a wedding, a reunion, etc., the situation is often presented where guests must hold both a plate with food and a beverage container. Often this includes the use of paper plates, which can give way under the weight of the food. Even if non-disposable plates are provided when serving food at such an occasion, it is difficult for a guest to conveniently handle both the plate with food and the beverage container at the same time. Therefore, it is desired to have a food tray that would be appropriate for a variety of occasions to allow an individual to carry both food and beverage items in one hand while maintaining ready access to either.

At a formal or semi-formal occasion where food is not served individually but rather in a buffet style, an individual picks up a plate, such as a china plate, and proceeds through a buffet line adding food to the plate. While acquiring food on the plate, the individual usually must also carry silverware and a napkin. At the end of the buffet, or at another table, an individual acquires a beverage to be consumed with the meal. After this process, the individual must carry a plate of food, a beverage, silverware, and a napkin back to a table, or must eat sitting in a chair or standing. Not only are these items difficult to carry individually, but eating in places other than at a table can be challenging at such an occasion.

Additionally, an individual at such occasions is often greeted by others, or engages in conversation with others in attendance. When one is introduced to a new person, it is customary to stand and to shake hands as a polite exchange. Social introductions can be awkward, however, if an individual is carrying a plate of food, a beverage, silverware, and a napkin. Social expression through hand gestures and arm movements are also limited if carrying the items individually. Thus, it would be desirable to have a handle to simultaneously hold the food and drink with one hand while the other remains free to shake or otherwise express oneself.

Also, if tables are not provided at such an occasion, or if a table is not available, then an individual must stand to eat, or must sit in a chair to eat. Either way, the individual must place his or her beverage on the floor or other flat surface, which is not desirable because one's drink could be spilled or confused with someone else's beverage. In addition, if one were to be seated without a table, a standard plate allows the flat bottom surface of a plate to have contact with the individual's lap, the individual's lap acting as a substitute in this scenario.

Thus, there is a need for a food tray which can be more conveniently carried during social events and the like.

SUMMARY

This application discloses serving trays and methods for making and using serving trays. Embodiments of food serving trays are disclosed that securely hold a beverage to allow an individual to carry food items and a beverage using only one hand. This would allow more non-verbal expression with a free hand, including social introductions which require shaking hands.

Some embodiments of a food serving tray may include a handle extending outwards from the tray. The handle may allow a secure grip on the food serving tray. The handle may also allow for easy pick-up by being located on the side of the tray.

In some embodiments, the handle may include support structures, preferably ribs, that extend across the handle to the serving tray, which prevent unwanted flexing or breakage of the handle or serving tray. The ribs may provide both structural support and more surface area to grip.

According to some embodiments, the handle is relatively co-planar with the upper surface of the tray. Co-planar and suspended in the air, the handle may allow an individual's hand to grasp above and below the handle without having to lift up an edge of a plate in order to grasp the plate. This results in a convenient single-handed pick-up.

According to some embodiments, the food tray with handle may be contoured to receive another food tray when stacked. Stackable trays require less space and lessen the table area necessary for empty plates.

It will be appreciated that not all embodiments made in accordance with the invention will contain all aspects of the invention as noted above. Rather, various embodiments of the invention will contain different advantages thereof and are contemplated by the present application.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from a consideration of the following detailed description presented in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 shows an embodiment of a food serving tray with a beverage compartment, a handle and a food compartment;

FIG. 2 shows a side view of the food serving tray of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 shows a top view of an embodiment of a food serving tray; and

FIG. 4 shows a cross-sectional view of a handle of a serving tray.

It will be appreciated that the drawings are illustrative and not limiting of the scope of the invention which is defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Reference will now be made to the drawings in which the various elements of the serving trays and methods of using or making serving trays will be given numeral designations and in which the invention will be discussed so as to enable one skilled in the art to make and use the disclosed serving trays. It is to be understood that the following description is only exemplary of the principles of embodiments of serving trays, and should not be viewed as narrowing the pending claims.

Turning to FIG. 1, a food serving tray 10 is shown. The food serving tray 10 may include a beverage compartment 14, a handle 22 and a food compartment 18. While the beverage compartment 14 may be any size or dimension, in some embodiments, the compartment may be sized slightly larger than a soda or beer can, soft drink bottle, or other common beverage container used at catered social events. In such embodiments, the beverage compartment 14 may allow the can or bottle to nest in the compartment and significantly reduce the risk that the beverage will be spilled in the event that someone accidentally bumps the bottle or can. In contrast, placing a bottle or can on a conventional plate or tray makes it very likely that the beverage will spill if the bottle or can is bumped. It should also be appreciated that the location designated as a beverage compartment 14 could also be used for holding soup, dessert, or any other food item selected by the individual in the event that a beverage was not provided or desired.

It will be appreciated that more food compartments could be provided in other embodiments—i.e. a larger food compartment—to make the tray more convenient for larger meals and the like. Also, the food tray 10 is shown to have a scalloped design as may be desirable in formal and semi-formal settings. However, different embodiments could have varying designs, colors, and patterns.

The food serving tray 10 may allow an individual to carry and pick-up both food and a beverage in one hand. The individual may pick-up and hold the food tray 10 by the handle 22. In some embodiments, the handle 22 may protrude outward and be substantially co-planar with the upper surface of the food tray. More importantly, as can better be seen in FIG. 2, the upper surface 14 of the food serving tray 10 may be spaced apart from a lower surface 16. Thus, in such embodiments, when lower surface 16 of the tray is resting on an object, such as a table or one's lap, the fingers of a user are able to slide underneath the handle and grasp the handle 22, with the thumb on the opposite side, without having to lift a corner of the tray. Those familiar with attempting to lift a paper plate with too much food on it will appreciate that doing so often ends up in spilling the contents of the plate.

In some embodiments, the handle 22 may include a plurality of support structures 24. As will be explained below, the support structures 24 may make the handle 22 easier to grip and hold, and provide strength to the handle 22. In some embodiments, the support structures 24 of the handle 22 are formed by a plurality of ribs 28 that extend from the handle edge 26 to the edge of the food compartment 18. The ribs 28 provide the handle 22 with sufficient rigidity to prevent unwanted flexing or breakage. The ribs 28 allow the serving tray to be thinner than what would normally be required.

According to some embodiments, food serving tray may be relatively thin compared to conventional trays. A thinner food serving tray 10 may be desirable because less material is consumed and the weight of the food serving tray is reduced. Since the food serving tray may be used in situations that require an individual to hold the food serving tray for long periods of time, weight may be a key purchasing factor. Furthermore the food service tray can be made of many different materials, including but not limited to, glass, plastics, metal, ceramic, or any other appropriate material for food service. When formed from plastic, however, the trays may be disposable, so the weight to rigidity ratio may not be as important. Similarly, in some embodiments, the handle 22 may be formed of a different material than the rest of food tray 10. For example, the handle 22 may include a metal portion integrally molded into the food tray, or portions of the handle 22. Similarly, the handle may include other materials, such as rubber, wood, glass, or other materials for gripping, aesthetic, or other purposes.

In social situations, it is generally desirable to keep hands away from food. It should then be appreciated that the handle 22 may provide a convenient grip away from the food while providing enough structure to support the food serving tray 10, in contrast to a traditional plate or serving tray. The user is not required to extend his or her thumb into the food area, thus potentially sticking the thumb in the food.

In embodiments, the handle 22, may be configured with ribs that prevent unwanted flexing or breakage, while also presenting a grip aid. The ribs can be configured with ergonomic finger spacing, bumps, ridges, coatings or other means of aiding an individual's grip. For example, in some embodiments, the handle 22 may be coated with a rubberized coating.

A desirable aspect of embodiments of food tray 10 may be where handle 22 is located relatively co-planar with the upper surface 28 of the food tray 10. Since the handle 22 is above the lower surface 16 formed by the food compartment 18, an individual can conveniently grab the handle with one hand and lift the food serving tray 10.

Turning now to FIG. 2, illustrating a side view of the food serving tray 10 of FIG. 1. The top of the handle 22 may be generally co-planar with the top of the tray 10. The ribs 28 extend downwardly, providing both support for the handle 22 and improved grip for the user. Additionally, in the embodiment of FIG. 2, the underside of the handle 22 is sufficiently high off the surface on which the food tray rests to be easily grasped without lifting the tray.

FIG. 3 shows a top view of an alternate configuration of the food tray 10′. Rather than a single food compartment, the food serving tray 10′ includes two food compartments 18a and 18b. Such a tray may be used, for example, when food is being served with a dip or some other sauce which is desired to be kept separate from some of the other food. (The remainder of the food tray 10′ is similar to tray 10 and is numbered accordingly). It will be appreciated that the configuration could be altered, for example, by placing the handle 22 on the opposite side of the beverage compartment 14, and in accordance with other features of various other disclosed embodiments.

FIG. 4 shows a cross-sectional view of the handle 22 taken along line 4-4 in FIG. 1. The ribs 28 may preferably be formed so as to have a generally square or rectangular cross-sectional area, but with sufficient taper that the bottom of the ribs from one tray can nest in the void in the top of the ribs in a tray which is immediately underneath. Although the food serving trays could be of a variety of designs or shapes, in some embodiments, the food serving trays may be contoured and shaped to allow stacking, as this significantly reduces storage space.

Thus, there is disclosed an improved food tray. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that numerous modifications can be made to the embodiments of the invention discussed above and that the embodiments discussed above are only meant to teach one of ordinary skill in the art how to use the invention and not to limit the claims. The appended claims are intended to cover such modifications.