How to hold a serving tray

Written by athena hessong Google
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How to hold a serving tray
Properly carrying a serving tray will save you from aches and pains. (waitress 2 image by Andrey Kiselev from

Large serving trays full of dinner plates require a special technique for lifting and carrying to keep the food from falling or the server from incurring achy muscles. This technique allows even the smallest of people to lift large trays by supporting the weight of the tray on their shoulder instead of only with the weaker arm muscles. Whether hosting a casual dinner, or a server at an upscale restaurant, the method used by waiters to hold their trays is the same.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Towel

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  1. 1

    Thoroughly dry the tray with a towel, and keep a dry towel nearby on the tray or in your pocket for setting hotplates before the diners. Do not pick up hotplates with a wet towel.

  2. 2

    Lay a dampened towel on the surface of the serving tray only if the tray is not lined with cork. The towel prevents the plates from slipping during transport.

  3. 3

    Arrange the heaviest food items in the centre of the tray and evenly distribute the remaining items around the tray so the weight is the same on all sides of the tray. Never fill the tray up with more plates than you can comfortably lift.

  4. 4

    Bend at the knees so the tray is level with your chest.

  5. 5

    Place your dominant hand, palm side up under the centre of the tray. Steady the tray with your opposite hand as you straighten your knees and simultaneously lift the tray up to your shoulder.

  6. 6

    Splay out the fingers of the palm under the tray to give more stability to the tray, and keep your other hand on the edge of the tray to keep it from tilting.

  7. 7

    Reverse the lifting order to set the tray down onto a tray holder frame or unused nearby table. Never set the tray onto the same table with diners.

  8. 8

    Carry a small cocktail tray with the palm of your dominant hand under the centre of the tray and the tray supported by the foreman at waist level. Use the other hand to steady the drinks which are usually carried on a cocktail tray as you walk.

Tips and warnings

  • Drape a damp towel between each layer of covered plates on a serving tray if you must stack the serving dishes.

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