Café Nearby Helped Make 4 Cup Drink Tray More Versatile

by Kate Stewart

A funny thing I've noticed as an entrepreneur is the importance of the journey to get to where I am today. The power of what seem to be little things are in fact not so little, at all. The classic example is the Café nearby helped make my 4 cup drink trays more versatile. Seriously! I never thought that would be the case, yet here we are.

If I Couldn't Use It Who Would?

In early 2018, I was working on the sustainable design of my reusable 4 cup holder. I had a prototype. I had spent months testing the prototype at a coffee shop nearby. I started using my Keep Cup and my husband’s Joco Cup.

I would go to the café nearby, pick up my morning coffee hit and either walk, drive or ride my bike home (Stay tray fits perfectly in the front basket of a bike by the way). It was important to test my drink tray how my customers would use it. I was developing a sustainable drink tray made from recycled plastic, but it had to be more. It had to be practical. It had to work.

Stay tray Drink Tray



My initial goal was to develop a drink carrier for reusable coffee cups. There was no practical, sustainable solution for people to carry multiple reusable cups each day. Sustainable people like me were using disposable, single use drink trays to carry their reusable cups.

It didn’t make sense to me.

I wanted Stay tray to fit all different sizes of reusable coffee cups: Keep Cups, Joco Cups, Upper Cups, Luxey Cups, Hydro Flask, and Frank Green. You should have seen my collection of reusable coffee cups back then. I could have used a different one every day for months. Guess what friends and family received for birthdays and Christmas after that?

After testing, I made a few tweaks to the sustainable design and went into production. When the first 4 Cup Stay tray rolled off the line in late 2018, I was so excited. It had been a year of really hard work to get there. Not nearly as hard as traveling to Melbourne every day like in my old world. I had worked hard, but it had been on my own terms. For the first time I had real work life balance.

As I was testing Stay tray, I was also developing my website and talking to a café nearby about my little reusable cup holder. I got great interest and sales from cafes in Sydney, cafes in Melbourne, cafes in Brisbane, cafes in Perth and cafes in Adelaide. I found a really large number of coffee shops are sustainably minded. They really embraced Stay tray. I think the reusable cup movement, brought about by Keep Cup in 2009 and followed up by the ABC’s War on Waste in 2017, really helped pave the way for Stay tray.

Stay tray Cup Carrier

A few months post launch, I started to get some feedback that Stay tray was not an optimal fit for some cups. I had underestimated how my customers would use Stay tray. A really large proportion of customers were purchasing Stay tray to use with their reusable coffee cups for their morning coffee run.


I was quickly finding customers were also carrying disposable coffee cups, McDonalds coffee, McDonalds drinks and 7 Eleven coffee in Stay tray each day.

Stay tray Reusable Drinks Tray

My 4 Cup Stay tray was designed to carry reusable coffee cups, reducing reliance on single use carry trays.  Here were a group of people using Stay tray to carry disposable coffee, juice, smoothies and milk shakes. I decided right there and then it was my role to help educate my customers.

Today they are using Stay tray, tomorrow reusable coffee cups, next week reusable water bottles.

I realized even though these people were using disposable cups, they were still using a reusable drink tray. This was so important. It was their first step in their journey to move from single use to reusables. I was so excited. I knew that it was Stay trays role to help nurture this transition. I knew it would take people time. It’s important for people to move at their own pace. But I was thrilled that my Stay tray could really be a catalyst for change for these people.


It was a coffee shop nearby, just around the corner from my house, where I discovered the many different sizes of disposable coffee, juice and smoothie cups. Some cups were really thin, others really wide. The difference in size compared to each other was massive. Let alone the difference between disposable cups compared to Keep Cup, Joco Cups and Frank Green.

I had some work to do.  Stay tray was an optimal fit for most reusable coffee cups. But that meant it was not an optimal fit for thin disposable coffee, juice and smoothie cups. It was important for me to design a solution. I really wanted to capture this market so I could help them transition from disposables to reusables. This was important for me and a really big role Stay tray could fulfill. 

I didn’t want to design a whole new drink tray just for disposable cups. That seemed wasteful. I wanted Stay tray to be a singular solution. It came to me one morning on my way to school drop off. I need to design an insert for the existing drink tray I thought. The insert could also be made from recycled plastic. That way, customers who use Stay tray with disposable coffee, juice or smoothie cups, could use Stay tray with inserts. When they are ready in their journey to move beyond single use, they can simply remove the inserts. They then have a fantastic solution to carry their reusable coffee and smoothie cups.

Genius I thought. Off I went, back to my industrial designers to sustainably design an insert to make Stay tray even more versatile. And Stay tray Good Sport, Stay tray My ShoutStay tray Take Two and Stay tray Double Shot were born.

Stay tray Drink Tray My Shout

It sure has been a massive learning curve to design and deliver a practical, sustainable solution to carry drinks. There are so many different sized cups out there. From reusable to disposable coffee cups. McDonalds coffee cups to McDonalds frozen drinks. Smoothies to milk shakes. From 7 Eleven coffee to Starbucks coffee cups.

It would have made it a lot easier if all cups were created equal.