The ability to carry a cocktail tray full of drinks is a job requirement for servers at busy restaurants and bars. According to the “Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,” industries with the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders include positions that require large amounts of repetitive work such as carrying loaded cocktail trays. Proper technique can reduce the amount of strain a heavy tray places on a server’s joints and muscles.

Carry a tray that has more than eight glasses or bottles on it with your forearm and hand. Carry a tray with fewer than eight bottles and glasses on it with your wrist and hand.

Pick up the tray using both hands. Slide the supporting hand under the tray. Rest the tray on your fingertips with your wrist on an angle if it’s light enough to carry with just your hand. Support a heavier tray on your palm and forearm with your wrist straight and your fingers and thumb extended.

Keep the tray within 12-centimeters of your body, recommend the authors of a 2008 study published in the “Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.”

Hold the tray within the torso region of your body between your belly button and breast bone. Never hold a tray at or above your shoulders.

Relax your shoulder at a natural angle. Never stretch your shoulder away from your body.


  • The tray should remain horizontal at all times to prevent drinks from sliding around.

  • Walk around the table when serving drinks or clearing glasses.