Serving meals without trays

In a nutshell

Catering services can save a lot of water, electricity, detergent, dish-washing equipment, labour, and money by removing trays in public catering. Instead of using trays, customers could collect their food on plates and drinks in glasses only, and carry these to their dining tables like at home. This requires customers to be informed, and may also entail process changes by the service personnel. Serving without trays saves economic, environmental, and human resources, in alignment with a range of EU sustainability strategies and policies.

Necessary Steps

  • The service personnel and managers discuss, agree on, and plan a service without trays.
  • Customers are informed about the change and how it will work.
  • Necessary changes are made to the serving line, and a separate pick-up point could also be added for drinks and bread, spreads, cutlery, and napkins as needed.
  • Trays are removed from the serving line.
  • A single-plate-and-glass practice is introduced.
  • The customer collects the salad, main course, and side dishes from the line onto the plate and then takes the drink to the dining table.
  • Bread, spreads, cutlery, and napkins can be collected from a separate serving table in the dining room, in the immediate vicinity of the dining table.
  • The customer can collect more food from the line without queuing, if this is mutually agreed, or from a separate serving point for extra food.
  • The food service personnel help customers to adopt this new practice and collect customer feedback for possible future developments.

More Issues To Consider

  • Customers may dislike the service without trays to begin with, but will eventually accommodate the change.
  • Catering personnel have reported better levels of occupational health, as heavy work on the wrists is reduced.
  • It is possible that food and drink consumption will decrease, as collecting extra helpings requires more customer effort.

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