Surgical trays contain unused instruments which generate wasted resources from unnecessary reprocessing/replacement costs. We implemented a quality improvement initiative to optimize surgical trays for common otolaryngology procedures, and examined the impact on costs, operating room (OR) efficiency, and patient safety. We studied five common otolaryngology procedures over a 10-month period at a single community hospital. We compared pre- and post-intervention outcome measures including instrument utilization, tray set up time, tray rebuilding time, and balancing measures (operative time, instrument recall, patient safety). We estimated cost-savings from an institutional perspective over 1- and 10-year time horizons. Costs were expressed in 2017 Canadian dollars and modeled as a function of surgical volume, labor costs, instrument depreciation, and indirect costs. A total of 238 procedures by six surgeons were observed. At baseline, only 35% of instruments were utilized. We achieved an average instrument reduction of 26%, yielding 1-year cost savings of $9,010 CDN and 10-year cost savings of $69,576 CDN. Tray optimization reduced average OR tray setup time by 2.5 ± 0.4 min (p = 0.03) and average tray rebuilding time by 1.4 ± 0.2 min (p = 0.06). There was minimal impact on balancing measures such as OR time, stakeholder perception of patient safety and trainee education, and only a single case of instrument recall. Surgical tray optimization is a simple, effective, and scalable strategy for reducing costs and improving OR efficiency without compromising patient safety.