How Does a Dumbwaiter Lift Work?

If you’re keen to install a dumbwaiter lift in your home or business, this article will teach you more about how these lifts work, and how you can benefit from these useful multi-level transportation solutions.


For people who associate the word dumbwaiter with the image of a restaurant employee who keeps spilling the soup, this guide won’t be discussing this. The term dumbwaiter describes a service lift, used to transport items around the home or within commercial settings, such as restaurants. Food, drinks and other items can be moved between different floors; for example, from the basement kitchen to the dining room.

Unlike passenger lifts or an elevator, dumbwaiters are significantly smaller. Think of them as a small service lift – carrying a few choice items at a time, such as groceries, from floor to floor. While passenger lifts are only used, in almost all cases, in commercial settings – service lifts can take the form of a commercial dumbwaiter or residential dumbwaiters.


You may wonder why you shouldn’t simply install a passenger lift instead, and have your staff transport goods in one of these. The advantage seems obvious – a passenger lift can transport both items and people. Plus, after all, both types of lift move something from space A to space B between two floors or more.

However, the reason why a small service lift is desirable when compared to a passenger lift is that it is cheaper, smaller and suits a different purpose.

Dumbwaiter cost is substantially cheaper than the price of passenger lifts, making dumbwaiters a more cost-effective option. Low-cost transportation solutions are especially sought after by small businesses. In the United Kingdom, a dumbwaiter system tends to cost between thousands and up to tens of thousands. This may seem like a lot of money, but it’s a valuable investment, and the advantages will counter the initial expense.

Dumbwaiter lifts also take up far less room than passenger lifts. In a restaurant, for example, the less room taken up, the better, so as to accommodate more tables and therefore more customers. Likewise, for a club venue, additional space means additional capacity, and more money generated from tickets and bar sales.

The purpose of dumbwaiter lifts is to move items rather than people from one floor to another. Dumbwaiters are the cheaper alternative if you’re not planning to transport people alongside the food and drink items they’re trying to get from one space to another.

In a hospitality venue, installation of a commercial dumbwaiter may be something that accompanies rather than replaces a passenger lift. Each type of elevator suits different needs, and installation of either system will yield different results.


The simple dumbwaiter has its roots way back thousands of years ago. This seems to make sense, given that to many, the idea of a dumbwaiter is confined to settings like royalty and locations like Buckingham Palace – large houses at the very least.

In fact, contrary to that belief, dumbwaiters still exist today, and are used all around the world. They’re not operated with a hand rope as they were, and there’s no longer a need for them to pass through staff quarters during their route. Instead, they’re used in much more modern settings, like bars and restaurants, homes and pubs, clubs and other social hubs.

Former President and Founding Father of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson had items that he called ‘dumbwaiters’. These were situated in his home when he was hosting and entertaining friends, family and acquaintances.

However, contrary to assumption, this term didn’t describe the small service lifts we now imagine when we hear the word dumbwaiter. They were instead tables spaced around the various rooms, situated to serve food and drinks to guests who were socialising. While different to the dumbwaiter we see today, Jefferson’s dumbwaiters served the exact same purpose as the dumbwaiters of today – to negate the need for staff and to replace staff work with dumbwaiter work.

Few resources have survived the test of time in this way. But in 2021, dumbwaiters are still serving homes, bars, restaurants and clubs across the globe.


Dumbwaiters are not just found in a commercial building setup, but also in the home. An at-home dumbwaiter is known as a residential dumbwaiter, and can become an integral part of life at home. They make life easier, for example, when transporting clothes from the laundry room to the bedroom, or when transporting beer kegs to the dining room for a party.

Dumbwaiters are a valuable talking point and are a great fashion addition – and will save you putting your back out carrying items around the house. Many dumbwaiters around the world are confined to the hospitality sector, but with us continuing the great human tradition of hosting guests at home, it’s become a valuable partner in hosting a great dinner party to remember.


Dumbwaiters are a valuable addition to any space for a multitude of reasons.

Firstly, they minimise physical strain. Carrying goods up and down stairs is not only tiring, but it can even be fatal. The health implications of carrying heavy goods are great, and protecting yourself or your staff from physical harm is a key responsibility.

Secondly, dumb waiters are the more sustainable lift options. They use less electricity than their passenger lift and elevator counterparts, helping to lower your business’ carbon footprint at a time when it has never been more valuable to do so. Couple this with ensuring that you’re using green electricity, and the planet will thank you.

Thirdly, dumb waiter lifts increase the productivity of a workplace. Time is saved when using this type of lift compared to carrying items on foot.

Fourthly, and finally, a mini elevator like a dumbwaiter is a highly useful system for people with mobility issues. Installation in homes of the elderly, or in retirement homes, make these spaces more accessible and inclusive.

Many people with disabilities are unable, or cause themselves significant discomfort in trying, to carry items from one floor to another. By employing the use of dumbwaiter systems, the physical strain on people with mobility issues is greatly reduced.


It’s easy to get a dumbwaiter installed, with installation straightforward to organise. Once installed, these lifts become a reliable part of daily operation, and you’ll come to rely on the advantages of the dumbwaiter experience.

Most traditional dumb waiter versions work on pulley systems and with rope hauling. A dumbwaiter is a travelling frame that lifts items up and down a shaft between floors. While old systems use a pulley, the more modern adaptions of the dumbwaiter system include an electric motor that more simply transports items along the shaft.

Modern dumbwaiters can elevate any home or business, bringing a reliable and traditional process into modern-day living. While more practically designed for the twenty-first century, these lifts still serve the useful purpose of moving items between two floors or more – and so the core purpose of these systems has not been lost during modernisation. With the simple press of a button, the electric motors kick in, and away they go.

Beyond the residential dumbwaiters of the home, commercial dumbwaiters are often found in hospitality venues.

They are valuable to the service industry, eliminating the need for a staircase to manually transport food and drink to the required floor. It is a safer system for staff and members of the public alike, and enables employees to carry out alternative duties with the spare time they have acquired. There’s no need to physically carry food between floors when a dumbwaiter can carry it for you.

To keep your dumb waiter healthy, it is important to clean it regularly. As most people use their dumb waiter as a lift to primarily send food between floors, cleaning is important for contamination prevention.


A dumbwaiter has many useful advantages, and are very useful in both home and commercial settings. You can bring food, drink and other items between spaces with ease, and can save money compared to a passenger lift. Additionally, you can protect the health of those in you home or place of work, and protect the planet, with this being the smarter choice compared to a large elevator for accommodating people.

With the old rope system suitably adapted to the modern way of living through the additional of an electric motor, adding one to your home is a fashionable and sustainable choice. A dumbwaiter is suitable for any home with more than one floor, and can easily be installed in existing homes and hospitality premises. A dumbwaiter system is a valuable investment. Installing a dumbwaiter simply makes sense. What are you waiting for?