Alison’s topple free server is wow with drinks industry

Hospitality industry is buying into Alison Grieve's Safetray innovation
Hospitality industry is buying into Alison Grieve's Safetray innovation
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IT is an event that usually unites an entire pub in comical cheering whenever it occurs.

But the sound of a stack of glasses dropped from a tray by a bar worker could soon be a thing of the past thanks to an Edinburgh inventor.

Alison Grieve, 34, from Bruntsfield, has developed a “non-topple” drinks tray – the result of once watching an expensive bottle of Champagne tumble to its destruction at an event she organised several years ago.

The firm she has set up to sell it has now struck a deal to supply major US hotel chains, with thousands already sold.

Ms Grieve said: “I know first-hand how embarrassing and costly it can be, not just on the pocket but to a company’s reputation, when trays of expensive drinks fall over. It was one of those leap-out-the-chair moments.”

She secured help from Business Gateway Edinburgh – an organisation that aims to help people with aspirations to create their own firm – and carried out research on where to pitch her product.

She said: “I came up with the idea in 2009, and Business Gateway has supported me every step of the way from ensuring my business plan was robust to helping me with the latest investment round.

“My adviser put me in touch with Scottish Enterprise, whose market research highlighted that America was going to be the product’s biggest market, with 60 per cent of their top 100 bars providing VIP table service areas, which focused my attention on cracking that first.”

The invention works thanks to a fitting on the underside – similar to a lever – which allows the knuckles of the hand to automatically counter movement within the tray.

Some 3000 have been sold worldwide, with each selling for around £16. The businesses which have bought into Safetray include the Four Season Hotels chain, Sodexo and Compass Group, meaning hundreds of bars will use the product.

Now Ms Grieve wants to explore other areas of the world which have a similar approach to serving drinks, such as hotels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

She has contracts in the UK and across continental Europe, and has made a success of her invention despite not even having a background in design.

She added: “Now that we have made inroads in America, our next target is the UAE, where we already have distributor interest in the product. It’s true what they say about it being one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.”