70 years ago, brothers William and Argyle Campbell couldn’t have imagined the kind of company Cambro Manufacturing is today. What started with one innovative product has grown into 14,000—and counting. An iconic foodservice brand found in professional kitchens around the world, Cambro Manufacturing is proud to be a leader in every sector of the foodservice industry. In celebration of Cambro’s 70th Anniversary, we’re looking back at the products that made us what we are today. It only felt right to begin with the one that started it all: The Camtray®.
“From what I remember, I’ve been told this story because it was here before I was, the Camtray came about as the first product that started Cambro,” said Argyle Campbell, son of William Campbell and President of Cambro Manufacturing.
In 1951, American Hospital Supply Corporation approached the Campbell brothers with a product request. Hospital operators were unhappy with their metal meal delivery trays; they were too loud, too heavy, and difficult to clean. Operators wanted a tray that was quiet while maintaining the highest quality possible. Someone suggested they try using fiberglass.
“My dad being the manufacturing person, who didn’t know a thing about fiberglass, he said, ‘Yeah, absolutely. No problem.’ That’s how it started,” said Campbell.
The first order was for 2,000, 15 x 20 inch trays in Antique Parchment color—the only color Cambro offered back then—for a hospital, but it didn’t go as planned.
“They delivered the whole order of trays only to find out that the resin hadn’t really cured and they had to replace the entire order. That was an inauspicious start to Cambro Manufacturing Company,” said Campbell.
Cambro has always prided itself on listening to feedback from its customers and using it to make its products the best they can be. Cambro eventually perfected the composition of the Camtray, so much so that it’s made exactly the same way 70 years later.
As the popularity of the Camtray continued to grow, more sizes, shapes and colors were added to its offerings. Personalization was ultimately offered, and William Campbell, the gritty salesman that he was, thought of a unique way to get potential customers’ attention.
“I remember my dad would always come home with cocktail napkins that he would insist on personalizing into little tip trays to see how they would work. If it worked, he’d send it back to the place where he swiped the cocktail napkin in the first place,” said Campbell.
Speaking of cocktails, the round Camtray later transformed into a new, advanced tray called the Camtread® that had a special rubber top to keep glasses from sliding while servers transported them to customers’ tables.
“Initially, we would make the tray, sand the surface and glue on the epoxy rubber. Then we’d clamp the rubber down when it set up for 24 hours, and then we would have our Camtread trays. But that didn’t prevent the Camtread from eventually peeling, so we eventually invented where we molded the rubber onto the tray right when we made the tray—that was a huge breakthrough,” said Campbell.
Camtread trays have become a staple in bars and restaurants across the world because of their high-quality and durability.
As with the Camtray, Cambro is constantly approached by foodservice brands, hospitals, schools, hotels and others to create products for problems that no one else has been able to solve.
“Our continuing development in introduction of new products is a huge deal. Cambro has always been known for new products. Today, we introduce products that are better engineered than they ever have been. We have a really tight protocol on how we do it and what kind of testing we do, so that when they hit the market, like the Ultimate Sheet Pan Rack and the Pro Cart Ultra, they just hit and go,” said Campbell.
Cambro now offers more than a dozen types of trays in a variety of shapes and sizes for restaurants, schools, healthcare, correctional facilities and more. Contact your Cambro rep today to find the right tray for your operation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ADRIANA DESIDERIO IS THE DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER AT CAMBRO.