A dumbwaiter is a small goods elevator or lift used to connect two floors, often transporting food or goods from one floor to another. Not intended for use by animals or humans, a dumbwaiter can be a form of portable serving stand or table. They are often found in restaurants or older private homes, and are a means of transferring between a kitchen and a floor above or below. A simple dumbwaiter includes shafts, ropes, and pulleys, while a more modern one may include electric motors as a smaller-scale passenger elevator.
The simple dumbwaiter, common throughout Europe kind of before the 1930s, consists of a metal or wooden frame, like a box, suspended in a shaft. The shaft allows movement between two floors, and the frame is generally suspended by a rope and guided by rails in the shaft. The dumbwaiter would rest on each floor until a system of pulleys was activated from the top or bottom floor.
The ropes and pulleys would move dumbwaiter from floor to floor with people pushing the ropes to move the box together. These primitive dumbwaiters were commonplace in European restaurants and metropolitan restaurants throughout the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Often food orders would be shouted off the shaft, and dumbwaiter would bring ingredients, food, supplies, or whole meals.