Many luxury hotels are beginning to include butler service. // © 2015 Thinkstock
In a classic case of “what’s old is new again,” luxury hotels looking to elevate their service offerings are increasing their number of staff butlers. Some of them are classically trained to British standards, others are concierge hybrids, and some are specialists, such as the “bath butler.”
While we’ve found that some so-called butler services are seasonal or in-title-only, dedicated butlers at luxury hotels come from a long-respected tradition and represent the premium standard of hands-on service. Discretion, efficiency and flexibility are among their core strengths.
Though they rarely seek out the spotlight, we were able to talk to a few butlers about their training and expectations, as well as how they view their relationship to VIP clients.
The International Butler
From China to Manhattan, butlers in major cities must understand the needs of a “new global elite.”
“Today’s luxury travelers are young — many just in their 20s and 30s. They are connected via a constant stream of social media. Our challenge in this industry is to accommodate their desire for constant change. Hotels cannot simply sit back and believe that when they grow up, children will want to stay in the same hotels as their parents once did. And luxurious hotels are no longer exclusively for the wealthy elite.”
— Tony Sharp, chief butler for The St. Regis Macao
The Leisure-Getaway Butler
World-class leisure destinations expect butlers to understand many cultural standards for relaxation and comfort.
“The St. Regis butler is trained as one who would work in a private home. Guests are generally here with their families, and expectations are more directed toward enjoyment and pleasure, as opposed to the demands of business. The butler is privy to parts of life that not many people are given access to. At this time, I have a multi-international team composed of English, Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Zimbabwean, Spanish and American butlers. Most of my staff are multilingual, and they can also relate to guests from other parts of the world [and therefore] better understand what their needs may be.”
— Alexander G. Mattinson, butler service manager for The St. Regis Deer Valley
The All-Inclusive Butler
Classic training brings personalized service to the “luxury included” promise.
“At Grand Velas Riviera Maya, being chosen as a butler-concierge means you have the great honor to facilitate all requests, however large or small, and add an extra dose of pampering. Our Concierge Certification program consists of 180 classroom hours, with 60 hours in service areas. Its curriculum consists of sessions on the historical background of the role; study of quality standards required by The Leading Hotels of the World and AAA; and practical training exercises. The program also teaches teamwork with other departments, such as food and beverage or operations, as well as conflict resolution.”
— Amy Negrete, chief butler-concierge for Grand Velas Riviera Maya
The Specialty Butler
Niche butlers add an extra layer of luxury specific to a hotel’s experiential offerings.
“The spa butler program was developed specifically because Bardessono [based in Yountville, Calif.] intended spa services to take place in-room. The spa butler goes to the guestroom ahead of the therapist and transforms the space into your own personal spa. We light the candles, put on music, dress the tables and create the mood. We are the first point of contact for the experience, so it’s important to put the guest at ease. Sometimes guests want to help set up, and we have to say ‘No, we’re going to do everything for you.’”
— Maggie Bejarano, spa butler for Bardessono
The Las Vegas Butler
Rely on the Vegas butler for ultimate discretion, a fantastic Rolodex and secret VIP routes around the casino crowds.
“Butler service at Palms Casino Resort is included with every booking of our Luxe Collection of suites. Every butler guest experience varies slightly, but we will meet the guest at the airport in a Palms Escalade (all Luxe Collection bookings also receive roundtrip ground transportation); greet them curbside for an expedited check-in at our VIP lounge; or we’ll take them straight to the room. After we provide a tour, we unpack the guest and then place a lunch and beverage order. Everything from there depends on the guest’s whim, but it will range from setting up dinner reservations and show tickets to nightlife options. There is no ask too large for the butler team, but it has to be legal in Las Vegas and within our company code of conduct.”
— Kraig Borr, butler for Palms Casino Resort
The Family Butler
At family-friendly all-inclusive luxury properties, butler service is geared toward children as well as parents.
“Generations Riviera Maya by Karisma is an all-butler property delivering service 24 hours a day in-suite, at the beach and by the pool, as a part of our Gourmet Inclusive Experience. Beyond traditional duties, Generations Riviera Maya takes butler service to the next level, catering not only to adult guests but also to children staying at the family-friendly resort. Whether it’s warm steamed milk in the morning for little ones; toys selected from a toy lending library that are delivered poolside; a lunchtime picnic enjoyed in a private beach bed for the family; or chocolate-covered strawberries with champagne left in-suite in the evening for parents to indulge in after the kids head to bed, the butlers at Generations Riviera Maya go above and beyond to create vacations that are as carefree as they are unforgettable.”
— Howard Ruiz, head butler for Generations Riviera Maya by Karisma