Safetray CEO interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland

CEO Alison Grieve was interviewed by Gillian Marles on BBC Radio Scotland's Business Scotland programme this weekend. Hear the full programme here or read the full transcript below.

Gillian Marles, voice over:  Scotland has a great history of invention. If it wasn’t for us, there wouldn’t be TV, colour photography, grass-collecting lawnmowers, marmalade, cotton reel threads, fountain pens… The list goes on. However, we didn’t invent the wheel, but a Scot did invent the pneumatic tire that goes around it. And we’re still an inventive nation, but not so good at making money from those inventions. Alison Grieve is one woman hoping to change that. She is Chief Executive and inventor of the Safetray.

Alison Grieve: I used to have an events business, and in my former years I was a waitress, so I knew the trials and tribulations of carrying trays. At one event, there was a particularly spectacular accident involving a trayload of champagne glasses toppling over just before the host of the event was about to walk in. There were champagne glasses everywhere, glass on the floor, the cost of the champagne alone was a couple of hundred pounds, and it was very embarrassing, costly and, of course, dangerous. So those three reasons helped me to invent the Safetray.

GM: But did you have it in your head that you were an inventor then?

AG: The truth is, that for quite a number of years, in fact ever since I was a child, I used to say “when I grow up I want to be an inventor”. My parents even have a tape of me saying I wanted to be an inventor when I grew up, so there was definitely a desire there. As part of my events business I used to be a consultant at a business events organisation, and saw fantastic financial services, lawyers and accountants. But I used to think that it’s quite sad that a nation that gave birth to incredibly famous engineers, world-renowned scientists and inventors who shaped the world was so focused on services, and that manufacturing had kind of been left by the wayside. I loved the thought of physically manufacturing a product that came out of a machine in Scotland and could travel the world. So there was a bigger motivation there.

GM: But having an idea, and having it in your head that you wanted to do something … there is an awfully long way before you actually get to be an inventor, and to producing something in Scotland that you then sell.

AG: There are some inventors who are quite methodical about how they invent, so they will look at a problem, they will look at, perhaps, existing patents, and they will look at developing an idea further – that’s one kind of inventor. But the other kind of inventor, or perhaps invention, is one that you simply can’t plan. You can’t plan a eureka moment, and the time when I thought about trays, and about the ridiculous way that they’re made, I leapt out of my chair when I came up with that idea. It was literally a moment of a flash, a bubble that just popped on my head, so that I didn’t really plan.

However, after that, because I had this motivation to physically manufacture a product, I knew, as soon as I saw my sketch on a bit of paper, I thought, “that is the one, that is the one”. Within a couple of weeks I’d stopped doing all events. I knew it would take all of my time and energy to devote myself to this product.

GM: Unfortunately this is radio, but describe to us what makes this different to a [normal] tray?

AG:  Although you can’t see this, the Safetray has a clip on the underside. Now you don’t notice it because it just stacks up normally like a regular bar tray, but when you pull it off a bar or a surface, it comes down and it presses against the back of your knuckles. It means that when there is a heavy weight, even an entire bottle of wine right on the edge of the tray, you use your knuckles to control the tray, to keep it horizontal, so you can confidently do single-handed service without fear of the tray becoming unbalanced and toppling over.

GM: It is amazing. So you had this idea, you had your sketch, what happened then?

AG: Well, I looked into how, when you have an idea, can you go about outsourcing things like someone to do the CAD drawings, and somebody to source the manufacturing company? I learned about how you can protect your idea with things like Non-Disclosure Agreements, and that’s what I set about doing. I found a product design consultancy, Fearsomengine in Glasgow, and rather than pay them for their services, I gave them equity in the company, because I wasn’t a cash-rich entrepreneur. I had a business that really paid for my life, but not a great deal else.

GM: Did there come a point where you would say to people that you’re an inventor? When did that happen, or has it happened? Is that what you say you are?

AG: It’s difficult when someone asks what you do, because the invention happens in a flash and then everything else is selling the product, pulling together a good team, raising money, all the other roll-your-sleeves-up hard bits. It starts to feel a bit false, saying you’re an inventor, because it seems like it’s such a long time ago. But recently, now that we’re starting to develop new products, there’s another few patents that will be coming out, and again I feel like an inventor.

GM: Just tell me about the scale of the company you’ve got now, before you go into the new products and expanding in whatever way. What is the scale?

AG: There are four operational staff and there’s a board of five. We export across five continents now, and our major markets have been America, the Middle East and Australia. It’s been a very full-on year of travelling, which sounds very glamorous but it’s quite exhausting actually! But it’s necessary and it’s very exciting to think of these Safetrays, which were just a sketch on a scrap of paper three years ago, going to countries that I’ve never even been to before, swirling around these incredible venues, from salsa venues to pizza restaurants, to high-end bars serving celebrities in LA. It’s just a very exciting thing to be part of.

GM: What pieces of advice could you give to people who are early in the journey of inventing something?

AG: My advice would be that it’s not an easy ride, and that you can’t be disheartened by that. You fill find that there are always more people who oppose you than support you when it’s a game-changing item, and so rather than take that personally, just understand that and embrace it, and understand why people react against innovation. Try to understand the psychology behind that, instead of being hurt by it. Looking back, the most painful experiences have actually been the most enhancing to me as a person. It might not feel like it at the time, but no pain, no gain.

GM,VO: Alison Grieve. We met at the BBC canteen; her office is off-limits because they’re testing new, top-secret products.

Posted on November 26, 2012 .

Safetray is a finalist in the International Trade Awards 2012


Safetray has been named as a finalist in this year's prestigious International Trade Awards, in the SME category. The ceremony, which last year was held in the Houses of Parliament, takes place on the 10th December and our CEO Alison Grieve will be flying down to London to represent the company. Look out for news closer to the date, but in the meantime we'd love to hear from other companies who will be attending - hit us up on Facebook and say hello.

Posted on November 1, 2012 .

Safetray available from Hisco

Australian customers of Safetray can now order from Hisco in Western Australia. Order yours today by clicking on the link below:

Make sure you also visit our new Buy page, where you will find details of our global distributors.

Posted on September 20, 2012 .

Safetray is a finalist in the Best New Product Awards 2012


Australia has been a brilliant ride so far, and we're delighted that Safetray has been selected as a finalist in the Hospitality Equipment category of the Best New Product Awards 2012 at Fine Foods Australia.

There's just one more day to see us in action on Stand A1 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, before the team heads for Sydney on the evening of the 13th and then on to the Gold Coast on the 18th. Even Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls has been getting into Safetray:


Follow us on Twitter for more updates - look out for #safetrayontour and #ivegotthewholeworldonmytray, or find us on Facebook here

Posted on September 12, 2012 .

Safetray available from Chef's Hat

We'll be on Australian shores in just over a week, but you don't have to wait that long to get your hands on a Safetray. Order yours from Chef's Hat today by clicking below:

Make sure you also visit our new Buy page, where you will find details of our global distributors.

Posted on August 29, 2012 .

Safetray is coming to Australia


"An excellent example of innovation within the hospitality industry." Alex Cotterill, Director, the Park Hyatt Sydney, speaking about Safetray.

It's a trip that's been two years in the making, but in just two short weeks the Safetray crew will be touching down in Australia to see our trays in action Down Under. Safetray will be exhibiting at the Fine Food Australia show in Melbourne, 10-13 September, so come along to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, where we'll be showing off on Stand A1 (naturally). We'll then kick off another epic episode of Safetray on Tour, with three weeks travelling up and down the country, visiting our customers and distributors and getting more Australians on board the Safetray train.

Look out for updates here, lots of Whole World on my Tray images, and adventures galore. If you're in Australia, drop us a line and we'll come and say hello. It'll be bonza, mate.

Posted on August 28, 2012 .

First Minister praises Alison Grieve in conference speech

CEO Alison Grieve spoke at the Business in the Parliament conference last month, and was praised by First Minister Alex Salmond in his opening speech.

Click below to watch the full video. The section where the First Minister mentions Alison begins at 46:20.

"The next generation of people to emulate is here amongst us today, and with us in the communities of Scotland. The people ... here range from Alison Grieve, whose Safetray business was established two years ago but is now exporting to Europe, North America and the Emirates, to Jim McColl who famously started as an apprentice at Weir Pumps and is now Chief Executive of Clyde Blowers, a company that employs thousands of people across the planet."

Posted on July 6, 2012 .

Safetray is Event magazine's What's Hot of the Week

Haymarket Publications' Event magazine has chosen Safetray as its "What's Hot" selection for this week - see the full article here.


"What's the point of creating exquisite canapés if they're going to be scattered on the floor when a serving tray tips over?

Safetray is a new product being used by companies like Compass Group and Sodexo to avoid dropped trays by keeping food and drink perfectly balanced when they are served.

The clue is in the name - Safetray is an adapted tray that remains steady thanks to a retractable clip on its underside, which slips between the server’s middle fingers to offer stability using downward and horizontal traction.

Even if your waiting staff are perfectly poised, they could benefit from the handy clip: a survey conducted by Safetray found nearly a quarter of hospitality staff have suffered an injury because of a toppled tray."

Posted on May 11, 2012 .

Safetray goes to the movies


Does your mouth water when you think about the pasta scene in Goodfellas or the pizza in Moonstruck? If movies make you hungry, Safetray is teaming up with Foodies Festivals to deliver a unique experience across the UK this summer: the Food of Love Cinema. Starting 5-7 May at Hampton Court Palace, visitors to Foodies will be able to watch films from all over the world, along with the same food that the actors are eating on celluloid, all served up on a Safetray.

Curated by British film director Hannah Robinson, the selection of films and food at the Food of Love Cinema includes:

Bugsy Malone - cream pies and sasparilla

Babette's Feast - French delicacies

Moonstruck - pizza

Goodfellas - pasta

Tampopo - Japanese cuisine

The Scent of Green Papaya - Vietnamese street food

Tickets for the Food of Love Cinema are £10 for adults and £5 for children, in addition to entry to Foodies Festivals.

Posted on April 27, 2012 .

New article on includes Safetray

A new article on about manufacturing in China versus the UK mentions CEO Alison's recent interview in Lloyds Loading List.

"Last month, IFW’s sister publication, Lloyd’s Loading, ran a story about UK manufacturer Safetray Products, which shifted production from China to Scotland after quality control issues. It found producing and exporting from Scotland cost the same as from China, and it gained more control over its supply chain."

Posted on April 26, 2012 .

Safetray on Tour part 2

Remember this?


Safetray is heading back to Chicago, this time to attend the National Restaurant Association Show 2012 from the 5th-8th May. We will be sharing a booth with those purveyors of sharp design, our friends Freud Ltd, so come along and see both teams on booth 3289 at McCormick Place. Follow us on Twitter @safetray and look out for hashtags #safetrayontour and #ivegotthewholeworldonmytray, or find us on Facebook and let us know your top tips for nights out in Chi-town -- naturally, we'll be working hard and playing hard.

Read more about our very cool booth partners below.

"Established by the Freud family in 1986, London design house Freud Ltd seeks to bring beauty and authenticity to coffee and tea service, glassware, and tabletop. The coffee and tea and glassware products featured are British design classics – all hand finished from durable, traditional, responsibly sourced materials - adapted for use in commercial settings. Durable and functionally flawless, they are also design objects which bring style and sophistication to table service. That's why (for instance) C. Hoare & Co, Britain's oldest private bank, serve tea to the their elite clients in Freud teapots. It's why the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hong Kong uses Freud cafetieres. And it's why top tea houses, coffee bars, and Michelin star restaurants across Europe now use Freud products. To quote Blueprint magazine in 1986, the year we were founded, our products are 'affordable icons.'"

Posted on April 24, 2012 .

Safetray featured by Santander


CEO Alison talks money in this recent interview. Click here for more.

“I’ve earned the right to be here,” she adds. “The best way to argue against prejudice is through success. You can’t be prejudiced against hard sales figures and rising revenue.”

Alison believes that success brings recognition, but it also requires tenacity. “When you are trying to achieve a game-changer there will always be more people who oppose you than support you, whether you are male, female, 50 or 20. It’s the same for anyone who wants to achieve anything out of the ordinary.


Tell 'em how it is, Ali.

Posted on April 19, 2012 .

Update: Safetray on Tour

Anna demonstrates that we've got the whole world on our tray.


Safetray on Tour has been a huge success so far, generating lots of interest in the Middle East and America. The CEO Alison Grieve and Global Market Development Manager Anna Wilkie even met a government minister, who loved the Safetrays so much that he demonstrated them during an after-dinner speech.


The tour began in Dubai, where Alison demontrates Safetray's Atlas-like strength by holding up the globe of the World Trade Centre. The Gulfood exhibition provided an excellent opportunity to show the trays off in the Middle East, and to network with entrepreneurs from around the world.


Alison and Anna met government minister Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment at the Scottish Parliament. He loved the product so much that he showed it off later that night when speaking at a dinner for dignitaries and decision-makers.


One final visit to an iconic Dubai location, the Burj al Arab tower, then it was off to Las Vegas for Catersource - via London and Miami, of course.


Alison can't resist another spherical object - the hot-air balloon outside Paris, Las Vegas.

Catersource was another big success, with trays heading off to Canada, Mongolia, Hawaii, Brazil and Mexico.


Meanwhile, Export Manager Wendy and Marketing Manager Caroline flew down to Hotelympia, the UK's biggest catering show, at ExCel London. They had a great time at the Bunzl Lockhart stand, where the catering equipment suppljers had made a big feature of the Safetrays. Bunzl Lockhart now has its online ordering facility up and running online - visit to order direct.

So what next? Alison and Anna will be hitting the road, driving up and down the West Coast to find California's greatest flair bartender. Then Anna and Telina will be at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Tradeshow in Las Vegas, 12-14 March, while Alison and Wendy meet up in Miami at Cruise Shipping 2012, 12-15 March.

Follow the journey on Twitter @safetray or find us on Facebook, and look out for #safetrayontour and #ivegotthewholeworldonmytray.

Posted on March 1, 2012 .

Safetray profiled by Scottish Development International

Safetray Products is a product design company with unique products applicable to the hospitality industry.

Their main product is a stackable service tray – the Safetray - which does not topple over, thus preventing the cost, danger and embarrassment of toppled trays.

Voted Most Innovative Product, 2011 – Bunzl Lockhart
Start Up Britain Nationwide Winner, 2011
Brands of the Future Finalist 2010, International Marketing Festival

“Having used the Safetray, I can see that it decreases the risk of toppled drinks significantly. Safetray is an excellent example of innovation within the hospitality industry.” (Alex Cotterill, Director, Park Hyatt Sydney)

“It is important for us to give staff confidence and style in service. Using Safetrays throughout the venue means we can ensure our standard of service is consistent with each and every member of staff.” (Lucy Herlihy, General Manager, The Greene Room)


Posted on February 17, 2012 .

Safetray on Tour

Big things are happening over the next couple of months - come along and see Safetray in action all around the globe this spring. Have a go at our competitions, such as Dare to Flair California 2012, or just pop along to say hello.

February 19th-22nd – Gulfood – Dubai – Scottish Development International booth

February 26th-29th – Catersource – Las Vegas – Booth no. 2830

February 26th-March 1st – Hotelympia – London – Stand no. N 2329 with Schönwald

March 12th-14th – Nightclub & Bar Show – Las Vegas– Booth no. 1363

March 12th-15th – Cruise Shipping – Miami – Space no. 1997


Follow us on Twitter @safetray and look out for #safetrayontour

Posted on February 13, 2012 .

Safetray offers $500 prize for top California bar

Safetray is inviting California's top bars to go head to head in a competition to find the state's greatest cocktail flairer. Safetray will be cruising the coast from San Fransisco to LA, visiting the coolest bars and asking them to incorporate one of our Safetrays into a flair routine. Videos will be uploaded on to Youtube and the bar that gets the most hits will be the winner, picking up not only the kudos of the title, Dare to Flair Champion California 2012, but also a $500 prize.

So what are we looking for? Flairtender Erdem has the moves:

If you would like to be involved, contact us on and tell us more about yourself. You can also follow along with the journey on Twitter @safetray and look out for #safetrayontour and #daretoflair

Posted on February 13, 2012 .

Safetray featured by Business Gateway

Click on the link below to read the full story.

"Safetray was invented as a consequence of a spectacular accident involving a tray-load of champagne falling over at an important event, causing glass and champagne to go everywhere, which was costly, and dangerous, and embarrassing.

Because of that disaster, a wonderful thing was born, which was Safetray, a tray that doesn't topple over regardless of what is put on the surface.

Over half of our business is predicted to be in the States. We've already sold all over the USA, from Alaska to Puerto Rico, from San Fransisco to New York, and on to Canada. We've sold into the United Arab Emirates, so we've had a lot of success because it really is a global product.

I spoke to an adviser at Business Gateway at the very beginning of the process. He put us on to the high growth pipeline; access to finance was one way that they helped us. Also, in giving us tools that are absolutely essential in growing a business, such as templates for building business plans, tools for effective forecasting and additionally being a friendly and proactive support on the end of the telephone.

It's extremely important that you keep in communication with Business Gateway. Think of them as you would do any supplier, or any customer, because it is a relationship, and you've got to build that relationship. Don't expect them to do everything for you, because that's not their job. Their job is to inform you when you ask for help, so keep asking for help because it is available, and there are incredible resources there to tap into."

Posted on February 12, 2012 .

Safetray used in UK Government campaign

A campaign, launched by the UK Government and supported by Start-Up Britain, to encourage people with the twinkle of an idea in their eye to start a business decided to use Safetray as one of a select few case studies to front the project. Here's the video that was shot in London after a fairly early start for our CEO Alison Grieve. Read the full interview by clicking on the link below.

"I remember the moment when I was thinking about accidents involving trays toppling over, and when I came up with the invention of Safetray, I literally leapt out of my chair, and I knew that I had to commercialise that invention.

When I first started, I had some savings from a previous business, but I didn't have a lot of money as an entrepreneur. So, rather than pay for services, I gave away a share of equity in return for services from a product design consultancy. That really helped to boost the business at a critical early stage, and get us moving forward really quickly. Laterly I just closed an investment round, so I sold a share of equity in return for funds, and that is going to help us grow the business exponentially over the next three years.

Well now, my boss is my customer, my clients, and to a certain extent the staff that I'm taking on and the other board members. They're my bosses, and I think that's the best way to look at your own business. It's always good to be serving someone.

There's so much freedom in having your own business, and an incredible amount of pride that comes from having started something from nothing and then taking it to be a global product, and from being able to employ people, and all the wonderful feelings of satisfaction that brings.

I would say that the most important thing to remember in business is belief in what you're trying to do and never lose sight of that. If you're really determined to do something, then there's always a way. Even at times when everything seems disasterous and there are problems with production if it's a product, or major problems with customers if it's a service, everybody goes through those really dark times in business, that's just part of it, but it's to keep that belief and to keep finding solutions to problems, and you'll always find a way.

I'm already exporting Safetray, we sell to companies in America, in Canada, in United Arab Emirates, and we have plans to go all over the world because it is a truly global product. It is tricky, export, you have to be aware of a lot of different legal systems, you have to be aware of the importance of logistics, because what you don't want is for your customers to have a bad experience in whatever market you're going to commercialise.

However, the belief that export is more risky than just sticking to your own domestic market is not true, in my experience. I would say that it's been less risky for my business. The decision to split our stock and send half of it to America was perhaps the best decision I ever made for the business.

I would say to anyone thinking about export, certainly research, as you would do your own domestic market, but don't be scared. It really is possible, and there's a lot of support available in the UK, offered by the government, to help you export."

Posted on January 31, 2012 .