How do dumbwaiters work?

Dumbwaiters are small freight elevators that move goods and materials. Also known as lifts in some parts of the country and world, dumbwaiters are used within many industries – from food services to healthcare.

What makes dumbwaiters so critical to business operations is the efficiencies they bring. Dumbwaiters can be designed to serve in a variety of challenging instances and unique scenarios (read through our dumbwaiter and lift case studies for examples) including in restaurants where space is limited or at hospitals when moving supplies quickly between floors is critical.

Regardless of how they are used however, the basic form and function (the principles and components of dumbwaiter operation) of these systems has not changed in over 100 years.

Dumbwaiter Form & Function

A dumbwaiter is a movable frame in a shaft, powered by a motor that guides that shaft on a set of rails. Think of it as a “micro-elevator” that is designed to move things, rather than people.

DID YOU KNOW? The first dumbwaiter brake system was patented by New York City inventor George W. Cannon in 1883. Canon later filed for the patent on the mechanical dumbwaiter in 1887.

Matot Dumbwaiter from the 1940's

Matot Dumbwaiter from the 1940’s

In the distant past, dumbwaiter frames were often made of wood (see the image of a Matot dumbwaiter from the 1940’s) and required rope and pulley systems to move. Today’s dumbwaiters, such as those designed and manufactured by Matot, are built with the highest quality steel and powered by highly-engineered electrical motors that make it possible to move hundreds of pounds of materials and do so safely and reliably.

Dumbwaiters of the 21st Century & Beyond

Today’s dumbwaiters have numerous electrical components that enable users to control movement, temperature, humidity and a range of other environmental factors that may influence the integrity of the goods or materials being delivered.

Dumbwaiters and lifts are very common in commercial and industrial settings, active parts of many buildings and facilities. As a result, there are many building regulations and codes that dumbwaiters must be in compliance with including those that require these systems to be fireproof.

Matot dumbwaiters and lifts for example, can be designed and manufactured with fireproof walls and self-closing gates. When moving precious cargo and important or sensitive material, that’s an important feature to possess in a dumbwaiter but today’s lift systems can go even further to protect goods being moved. There are many instances where Matot has worked on dumbwaiter and lift systems for moving hazardous materials.

How Will Your Dumbwaiter Work?

There are many considerations to make when it comes to designing and manufacturing a dumbwaiter for a specific use in a commercial building or industrial facility. Working with a trusted, experienced manufacturer like Matot will give you the confidence in knowing that these critical systems will work as intended when needed.

Get in touch with a Matot representative to discuss how to make our dumbwaiters and lifts integrate seamlessly with your project.


Matot has been designing, engineering, manufacturing and installing dumbwaiters and lifts for residential and commercial clients for over 130 years. 

In that time, we’ve seen new technologies emerge and old ones fade away. With well over a century of experience, Matot has become the most experienced and respected vendor for commercial lifts and dumbwaiters in the world. With that prominent position in the industry, our competitors look for any opportunity to compare themselves to our company, our process and our products. Inevitably, they fall short. 

As an individual or company seeking out a solution to lift materials and goods in specific environments, from oil rigs to restaurants, you need to compare the available offerings and those vendors capable of delivering on your dumbwaiter or lift plans.

What criteria should be used when selecting the company that will design and manufacture your industrial dumbwaiter or commercial lift?

Learn more about how to select the right partner for your dumbwaiter or lift project.