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Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, April 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #14

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: Anticipation

Scenario: An invited guest brings an unexpected guest to a formal dinner party. The unexpected guest is unknown to both the host and the butler. Guests, all of whom otherwise know each other, are gathering for cocktails in the library prior to the meal. All dinner settings have been placed; the food has been prepared and is ready to be served.

The butler’s problem: Help the host (1) seamlessly cope with the unexpected guest at the last minute; (2) welcome and integrate the new guest into the group.

The Standards: The Standards of Professional Practice state that “a butler must be a consummate professional…” Among several characteristics that describe a butler as a “consummate professional” is the ability to anticipate, i.e., to know the employer’s habits and mindset, to completely understand the demands of any usual situation of the household and intuitively to comprehend unusual situations, enabling the butler to act, even to know what will be needed so as to respond with confidence, effectiveness, and aplomb.

Recommendations: Here the unexpected guest might slip an awkward wrinkle into the fabric of the occasion; the butler must anticipate possible effects from the time of her entrance to the concluding departure. Several things must happen quickly. The butler should:

  • Welcome the guest, learn her name and discreetly inquire of any dietary requirements, preferences from the menu, and other special needs;
  • Immediately report the additional meal to the chef and server, with any accommodations required by the new guest;
  • Arrange the additional place setting, with name (if necessary) and menu cards;
  • Conduct a rapid internet search on the new guest and prepare a small printout or summary briefing for the employer. If the guest is someone especially noteworthy, perhaps draft a brief toast to welcome and honor the person at that point in the dinner when other toasts may be offered;
  • Ensure the guest has the opportunity to sign the household visitor’s log before departing.

The butler has set the stage quietly for the guest’s entrance and integration, for the employer’s role of gracious host, avoiding embarrassment of the invited guest who breached proper etiquette in the first place, the butler all the while remaining unobtrusively in the background. Complete mastery of the details of the occasion and anticipating the needs of the players made it possible.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

Categorías
Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #13

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: Simple Elegance

Scenario: A young couple is planning a wedding in a few months. It is to be a very nice affair, bringing in more than two-hundred guests from several parts of the country, all expecting a grand occasion. The wedding is to be conducted in the groom’s home town, and the bride’s family are to travel some 1,500 miles for the ceremony and celebration.

The mothers of the groom and bride, respectively, have agreed that the groom’s mother should plan and make the arrangements for both the family wedding breakfast and the larger reception, since she enjoys a reputation for frequent and fine entertainment, but on a smaller scale.

Budget is not an issue, although the couple have requested what they describe as “modest elegance.” The bride said recently, “The wedding is the main event, not the parties.” The groom assured a modest approach with a modest budget for the affair.

Enter the consultant butler, to offer advice and encouragement. At a first meeting, the groom’s mother confided, “I have just finished a big Valentine’s party. The wedding is just a few weeks away. Frankly, I am overwhelmed.  This event must be beautiful and memorable, but, I do not have time to do everything. Help!”

The Standards: The Professional Performance Standards state that “a butler should create…refined, elegant eating experiences…whether a simple tray for one or a dinner for 100….”

The standards also state that “the butler’s responsibilities for…social occasions…demand attention to a…diverse amount of activity and detail…. Checklists offer a[n]…efficient answer to these needs.”

Recommendations: The mother is seeking reassurance (i.e., confidence) that the task is possible, and secondly, ideas to help achieve modest elegance and simplicity.

Elegance is a function of taste and grace under pressure. Good taste usually is learned. The consultant butler may offer ideas when questions of good taste arise.

The right tools can help achieve grace under pressure; detailed checklists can make what seems impossible, relatively easy. Checklists offer a way to plan a complicated process, to declutter unneeded parts and movements, to prepare all the pieces in order, and to avoid forgetting. Checklists simplify everything else. Like an elegant golf swing, these wedding parties can be beautiful, smooth, and easy, with a powerful result—simple elegance.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.