FAQ: Dumbwaiters & service lifts

In this blog post, we'll clear up some of the most common questions we've heard about Microlift dumbwaiters and service lifts. Read on...

What is a 'service lift'? 

These lifts go by various names including dumbwaiter, kitchen lifts, catering lifts, service lifts, trolley lifts, roll cage lifts and our favourite... the microlift!

When we say service lift we're referring to a lift that helps you move goods around your workplace or home that are too dangerous or cumbersome to lift manually, carry up multiple flights of stairs or a change in level. These are small goods lifts that can be loaded at waist-height or floor level and do not carry people.

What are service lifts used for?

A service lift can range from a dumbwaiter or 'microlift' in a home to move groceries, crockery etc. to catering lifts or kitchen lifts for a restaurant that has one or more floors - aiding in the serving and clearing of meals. Or for floor-level service a trolleylift that moves roll cages in a supermarket, delivers catering trolleys, or helps move boxes, kegs and crates between floors.

If you're not sure what type of lift and the differences between them then take a look at our Service Lifts Infographic for more information. 

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How do I know whether I need a service lift?

A service lift will improve efficiency and safety if you repeatedly move goods over two or more floors by hand. If you are a business owner, you're legally responsible for the welfare of your staff during their working hours and for the health and safety of everyone on your site. You can read more about how to assess your workplace and see how helpful a lift could be to you in our blog on Manual Handling Regulations.

Can I install a dumbwaiter in a private dwelling?

You certainly can. We have installed many Microlifts, or dumbwaiters, in townhouses where carrying goods such as shopping, over several stairways is challenging. Historically most grand houses had a dumbwaiter from the kitchen to the dining room. We've even seen a lift to a bedroom that delivers pizza from the restaurant downstairs!

How do I take goods in and out of the lift?

If you have a small service lift or dumbwaiter, working as a catering lift, then you will usually have this installed at waist height for loading/unloading plates and cutlery. Larger service lifts such as a Trolleylift will be loaded at floor height and take the goods to another floor level, so your goods would be on a trolley or a pallet. 

Can a dumbwaiter keep food hot?

Yes, at Stannah we offer a heater in our Microlifts. There are two options, the first is to go for an infrared heated lift car, the second an option to have some or all of the shelves heated. A lot of the time customers typically have two lifts, one for service and one for clearing, either side by side or stacked (double-decker arrangement of two lift cars using one shaft). 

How far can a service lift travel and how much can it carry?

Dumbwaiters can travel up to 30 metres or 12 stops and in 50kg or 100kg loads. Trolley lifts can travel up to 18m with up to 6 stops and carry loads of up to 300kg. We're also able to supply bespoke options too.

What configurations and sizes are available? Do I have room?

These little lifts are very compact, so you'd be surprised at how small a space is required and the range of entrance configurations. There are also service lifts designed to overcome low headroom on the upper floor. A goods lift provider, such as Stannah, can conduct a survey to advise you of the best position and product for your needs and walk you through the process.

Can these lifts withstand being used all day?

These lifts are workhorses built to last and be well used. The average loads are typically 360 per day for a dumbwaiter and 180 per day for a trolley lift. Our longest serving Microlift on our service records is over 39 years old and still going strong! Like a car, the key to longevity is proper care and regular maintenance.

How much does a dumbwaiter cost?

Service lifts can cost from £6,000 upwards. However, they vary depending on travel, configuration, number of floors and options. It's also important to consider any building work required and how that will add to project costs.

How long does it take to install a service lift?

We supply most of our Stannah service lifts from our warehouses in the UK, meaning we can supply and install them in just a few days. We always do our best to minimise interruption time to your business, working on weekends and evenings if needed.

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If your commercial premises, school, kitchen, restaurant or shop has two or more catering/serving floors, then you'll likely require some sort of service lift. Here at Stannah, we offer a broad range of goods and service lifts so we can advise on the best product to suit your needs; you can see more on our product ranges.Explore our Goods & Service Lifts


With over 50,000 installations across the UK and nearly 100,000 units in our service portfolio, we offer a wide range of lift solutions and services to move people and goods. Take a look at our product range or simply get in touch.

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