8 Different Types of Serving Trays

Get to know the different types of serving trays so you'll know the right ones to use for breakfasts in bed, formal dinner parties, and other occasions and functions.
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Butler holding an empty silver platter.

The Etruscan tray, an Etruscan black earthenware dated 7th or 6th century B.C.E., is the oldest serving tray in existence. It suggests that a tray was used as early as the ancient times.

Flat trays without handles also known as salver in the 17th century England were used to serve food for the royalty after a small portion of the food had been tested for poison. It came from the Latin salvare which means “to save.”

Papier-maché trays became popular in Asia and Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries while Russian artists painted folk art on lacquered metal trays around the same time.

Modern, durable, and waterproof melamine trays took over from the 1940s to the 1960s in the U.S. In recent years, serving trays can be found in a variety of materials including plastic, acrylic, teak wood, bamboo, and rattan.

1. Fast Food Serving Trays

Burger, fries, and soda on a fast food serving tray.

One of the most common types of serving trays that you will see on a regular basis will be fast food serving trays. If you eat inside of a fast food restaurant, then you will see that your food is served on one of these trays. They are generally going to be made out of plastic and will be very durable. Dropping one of these trays won’t cause it to break, and it can stand up to a significant amount of punishment.

Most fast food restaurants use standard rectangular food serving trays. They will be able to hold even fairly large meals and have a decent surface area. This type of serving tray is very practical for use inside one of these establishments. They won’t look particularly fancy, but they will do what they are supposed to do and will function well.

You will usually see that the fast food restaurants place paper placeholder mats on top of the trays when serving your food. This helps to keep food from getting stuck on the trays so that they can remain as sanitary as possible for other customers. People usually place them in a designated area near the straws whenever they are finished eating their food. These trays can be purchased to use in your home if you would like, as well.

The fast food serving tray that is being shown here is a good example of a standard tray. This one is blue in color and it actually looks really nice overall. It isn’t priced too high, so it should be a practical food tray if you are in need. Many smaller restaurants and fast food chains will buy trays just like this to use on a daily basis. It is a reliable serving tray that will stand up to regular use.

2. Serving Trays with Compartments

Top view of a food served in a serving tray with compartments with the spoon and fork on both sides of the tray.

Serving trays with compartments are actually pretty common as well. It is possible that you may have some of these in your home that you use on a regular basis. They are very popular among children, as they are helpful when it comes to getting kids to eat meals while remaining very fun. Sometimes these serving trays will even feature popular cartoon characters or designs to further appeal to your children.

If you are looking for a more standard serving tray with compartments, then they are certainly readily available. You probably used serving trays like this when you were in school. These trays help to keep different foods separate on your plate. There will be a spot that is meant for the main course, a spot that is meant for vegetables, and another that is meant for snacks.

Sometimes serving trays with compartments will be set up differently, but most of them will have between three and five different compartments. This is going to be a convenient type of serving tray to own when you have kids. It can be nice for adults to use as well, but not everyone will find it to be desirable or practical. People who like to keep their different types of food from touching do really enjoy these types of serving trays, though.

The version that is being shown here is perfect for home use. It can be used to make eating dinner a simplified experience. It has plenty of space for all of the different courses that you are planning on serving. This tray is made out of stainless steel as well, so you can feel confident that it will stand the test of time.

3. Appetizer Serving Trays

Appetizer Serving Tray


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Appetizer serving trays are specifically meant for serving smaller courses. People will often bring out these types of serving trays at parties. You can place various types of snacks and goodies on this type of tray, and people will be able to grab food on their own. These trays are also popular for carrying around at catered events where guests are being offered things such as finger foods.

The tray that is being used as an example here is rather simple. This is an attractive glass platter with several sections that can separate different appetizers. You will be able to place many types of foods on this platter that will help your party to go off without a hitch. A good serving tray like this is ideal when you want to use many types of appetizers to give people a choice.

These trays are great for when you are having company over for the big game. You can place chips and other types of snacks on these trays for people to grab. It will be a good experience and you’ll be glad that you have it around. This tray is a bit on the expensive side despite looking subdued, but it is very high-quality. If you need a good serving tray that is easy to clean and looks nice, then this should work out well.

4. Tea Serving Trays

Tea & Coffee Serving Tray

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Tea serving trays have been important for a very long time. North American culture isn’t as enamored with tea as much of Europe is, but it is still quite popular. When people want to be able to serve tea in the traditional way, they will need to own one of these tea serving trays. Using a tea serving tray like this one is something that will give you a very traditional feeling.

Many of the most sought-after tea serving trays will be very elegant in appearance. They can be made out of various different materials, but the common ones are wood and metal. This one that is being shown here is made out of metal and is very ornate. It has two handles that make carrying the tray as convenient as possible, too.

This stainless steel tea serving plate is even gold and silver plated to give it an extra touch of elegance. It truly does look stunning and you will enjoy making use of it. This is something that can add to the overall experience of serving tea at your home. If you care about the aesthetics of the situation, then you should consider getting a really nice tea serving tray like this one.

5. Plastic Serving Trays

Stacks of red plastic serving trays in a cafeteria.

Plastic serving trays can come in various different shapes and sizes. Some of them will be meant to be used time and time again. Others will be meant to be thrown out after several uses. In modern times, many people are avoiding the plastic disposable trays due to environmental concerns. Regardless, these trays are still very common, and people make use of them when they need to serve many foods at a party.

A good plastic serving tray is going to be quite useful for serving many things. These are popularly used to help serve and display desserts. If you need a serving tray for your cake or for other special baked goods, then something like this will work nicely. It is actually a very affordable option despite having an upscale look.

This plastic serving tray is going to work well for your needs. It is round in shape and will make serving various types of food or drinks a breeze. It is rigid enough to hold many types of foods, but you will want to use common sense about how much weight you are putting on the serving tray. For a plastic serving tray, this is going to be a very desirable option that will meet your expectations.

6. Wooden Serving Trays

Wooden Serving Trays

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Wooden serving trays have a tendency to feel very traditional, and this is going to be appealing to many people. If you want to have a sturdy serving tray that will work well for several purposes, then this should be on your radar. A good wooden serving tray will be excellent for serving drinks, and it will also work well for serving items such as soup. You can even use some wooden serving trays as makeshift tables when you are in a pinch.

This wooden serving tray is really nice and would work well for serving coffee or tea. It is a versatile type of serving tray that has handles that make it easier to carry. You will be able to serve people either food or drinks with this tray. It looks nice overall, and it should please anyone who decides to buy it.

This is a very affordable tray when you consider that it is made out of sturdy wood. This serving tray could potentially be used for many years, and it is very cost-effective. Buying a high-quality serving tray like this is going to come in handy in many situations. This is a highly recommended purchase that you will be happy with.

7. Metal Serving Trays

A bottle of white wine and wine glasses on a metal serving tray.


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Of course, metal serving trays are going to be among the most durable options that you could purchase. These metal trays are going to be very rigid and will be capable of serving heavier items because of it. Thankfully, the increased durability of a metal serving tray does not mean that it necessarily needs to be heavier. Many of these trays are quite lightweight, and they will be easy to carry around as necessary.

The most common types of metal serving trays are made out of stainless steel. You will also find serving trays that are made out of aluminum on the market. Either of these metals should work brilliantly for you, so you can’t really go wrong with either option. The option that is being shown off here is made out of stainless steel.

This rectangular serving tray will serve you well during many parties and other types of social events. It is sized perfectly to make carrying food to your guests as easy as possible. It can fit quite a lot of food on its surface, but it will always feel convenient to carry. This serving tray is very affordable, too, making it another easy recommendation for anyone who wants a metal serving tray.

8. Fiberglass Serving Trays

Fiberglass Serving Tray

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Fiberglass serving trays are also fairly common, and they are made to be shatterproof. Some of these serving trays will be very ornate, and others will be more subdued. They are popularly used in various restaurants and are convenient because they won’t break when accidents happen. It is much more practical to use this type of serving tray than it is to use something that is actually made of glass.

You will find that fiberglass is incredibly durable. It is going to be able to make serving food as easy as it can be. Some of the more common fiberglass serving trays aren’t necessarily all that pretty, but they are very practical. People sometimes mistake fiberglass serving trays for plastic ones, but these are going to be more durable than those.

You can find these types of serving trays in various shapes and sizes, too. The one that is being shown here is round and will work nicely for serving drinks or appetizers. You can find rectangular or oval-shaped serving trays that are made out of fiberglass as well. Pick the option that appeals to you the most, and then make your purchasing decision.









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