Butlers are considered by some to be the ultimate sense of luxury yet they are becoming increasingly commonplace across the hospitality industry.
And it's not just one, do-it-all butler. There’s many types including pillow butlers, bath butlers, perfume butlers, tie butlers, doggie butlers, and cocktail butlers among others.
Butlers have even started to service customers on airplanes, such Etihad’s three room sky suite called The Residence.
However, the type of butler making the most waves is the personal butler. This butler is assigned to your hotel room for your entire stay. Some people find the situation somewhat awkward, as they are not accustomed to asking a strange person to undertake personal tasks, such as running a bath or tidying personal clothes.
Butlers are trained in a variety of tasks in order to meet the requests of their client. The Savoy Hotel in London is an example of this trend.
Head butler at the famous hotel, Sean Davoren, says “The butler takes ownership of what has been requested and ensures delivery in a timely and appropriate manner.”
At the Savoy Butler Academy, aspiring butlers are trained in food and beverage service, valeting, floristry, travel and housekeeping. The Savoy says that it seeks “a new generation of butlers who combine the discretion of a traditional English butler with the efficiency of a 21st-century personal assistant.”
One good way to learn the trade is to hear about the experiences of an actual butler. Shay Ross worked as a butler at the Savoy. He says that packing and unpacking suitcases was the largest part of his job. Additionally, he also spent time laundering clothes, preparing itinerary, and ensuring that dietary requirements were met. Ross would also prepare rooms for celebrities that had anywhere from 20 to 200 requests.
According to Ross, Middle Eastern and European clients were the most likely to know how the situation worked. Meanwhile, North American clients were more confused by the arrangement.
Ross says, “Some people just come out and say, ‘I don’t know what to do with you,’ But almost everyone finds they have a shirt that needs pressing before dinner.”
As you might expect, Ross saw some unusual activities taking place while servicing others. One client who ordered a large amount of oysters was later found by Ross snorkelling in his bathtub for the shells. Another client was particularly fond of zebra milk.
Ross also had some annoying clients as well. An ex-president of Russia requested a tuxedo overnight, but he refused to be measured.
“We got it to him only five minutes late, and he complained that the pants were an inch too long,” Ross claims.
Most guests say that repeated exposure to butlers helps make them more used to the situation, and they eventually come to view butlers as the ultimate amenity, allowing them to enjoy their trip while the butler handles mundane tasks that only take up unnecessary time.