The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, September 2014

  BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 10, issue 9

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

As the plethora (large amount) of articles quoted below on the introduction of a robot butler by some hotels shows (in distinction from robots that are merely called “robot butlers” but employed in limited capacities in other industries/professions), we can see that the process of automating our particular service has already begun—impacting the hospitality arena first. As we have pointed out in recent editorials and articles, however, there is something that no machine has even been able to offer, nor will ever been able to offer, Hal and R2D2 notwithstanding, and that is life. Which is one reason the Institute has changed its focus from teaching only the mechanical skills of the butler, to bringing service providers and levels to life with an increase in understanding of minor matters such as understanding the mind and motivations, life itself, and developing (appropriate) relationships that reinforce what is good about the old-style butler and do away with those elements that belong to earlier centuries.

This encroachment of robot butlers into hospitality is a limited first step, and should serve as a warning shot across the bows that formulaic service by flesh-and-blood butlers takes on the color of robotic butlers and will one day be performed by them as less expensive, easier to manage, more consistent, etc.

On a similar note, the article in the New York Times on 17 August lays bare another encroachment on related professions, whereby luxury services provided formerly by professional chauffeurs, chefs, and PA’s are available to citizens through their smart phone applications—and being provided by an army of low-paid amateurs. It’s good for Wall Street, it seems, and for those “on-demand employers” who would like, or need, to save money.  We should expect to see similar under-cutting marketplaces developing in the butler/household manager profession, such as Craig’s List. This is not a market limited to the less-well-off potential employer (for whom it is obviously a boon [something that is helpful]): We first became aware of this a couple of years ago when a wealthy client was discovered to be advertising on Craig’s List for an Estate Manager. In the time frames after these candidates would, predictably, not work out, she would ask for assistance from the Institute in finding personnel. We, of course, provided well-qualified candidates, but it seemed that the prospect of finding someone for half the price kept being too tempting.

A butler is not a poodle to be paraded across the salons of society—he is a dynamic individual filling a vital role for those who can afford his or her services to manage the minutiae and big picture that are required in supporting their lifestyle, so the principals can focus on those things they would rather be doing, or love to do. As such, the butler should be an intelligent and compassionate individual, capable of managing the spectrum of humanity as well as the complexities of today’s products and systems—he should be supported as one would support anything that was vital to one’s own success.  
Where a butler hangs onto the two-dimensional cut-out of the stiff and formal butler performing the same tricks in the same manner as he has for hundreds of years, he is in danger of being superseded by robot butlers programmed to perform his same duties with the same level of engagement. There is no benefit to be gained from trying to out-robot a robot; we are much better focused in our profession on demonstrating the one thing that no programmer can ever imbue into their creations: life itself. It is the life and understanding of live beings that people look for in relationships. Granted, there are some principals who have become so swamped in materialism that they do not seek life elsewhere, and prefer to deal with robots as the ideal servant; but as the movie The Cast Away showed, most people crave real, live people, with all their idiosyncrasies, all their demands and problems, to simply talking to matter devoid of emotions, self-determinism, life.
So how does one come alive as a butler? That’s something those who attend our training are discovering.

Letters to the Editor

Well done [on the last issue]! I am always amazed at the different skills and services that are connected to the word “Butler.” Goes to show that the Butler is widely considered as the top practitioner in his area of expertise. Still, I prefer to think of a Butler as the top private-service expert. WL

Ed: Thank you and understood. Butlers in venues other than the private estate, where properly trained, perform a valuable function in extending butler service beyond the home for those with their own butlers, and exposes those who do not have butlers, to the benefits of that service and perhaps giving them ideas to hire their own butler.  As with everything, where the venue does not engage in properly hiring and training their butlers, then the service is a parody and of no benefit to anyone in the long term.

Working with you has been a delight. You have a first-class organization that truly embodies the principles of service. MM

I want to thank you for taking the time to explain these matters so thoroughly, it has been such a pleasure and a learning experience working with you. TE

Butlers in the Media

Focusing this month on the new hotel butler robot, called “Botlr,” being employed now by Starwood’s over 100 Aloft Hotels. “A.L.O. [pronounced “el-oh.”] isn’t meant to replace the hotel’s staff and talent, instead it’s meant to help with the more menial tasks so the staff will have more time for face-to-face interaction with customers.”

Personal Assistants are also having their domain eroded by apps: “These days, most of life’s basic tasks can be solved through a single tap of an app. The only remaining compelling reason to have full-time personal assistance is as a status symbol, or for help with tasks that require more trust and security than a remote labor pool can provide.” Other apps (beyond Siri, Cortana, and Google Everywhere) add to the clamor for digital-based solutions rather than human service professionals, such as Humin, and Uber, Munchery, Jarvis, Fancy Hands, and Sprig, all of which steer work away from chauffeurs, PAs, Concierges, and even Chefs and into the hands of either digital programs or amateur service providers coordinated by new middlemen agencies.

For more articles, click here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

See this article for an interesting view of AI (artificial intelligence) and the encroachment of robots into the workforce, from which we quote:

“In the always-expanding world of technology, each generation of humans is witness to new gadgets and services that supplant earlier versions of gadgets and services, eventually leading to job losses in key industries. They point to automobile and other manufacturing, where technology and robotics have replaced millions of jobs over the past century. Robots and AI threaten to make even some kinds of skilled work obsolete (e.g., legal clerks),” said Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist. “This will displace people into service roles, and the income gap between skilled workers whose jobs cannot be automated and everyone else will widen. This is a recipe for instability.”

While this short article highlights the fact that job losses always follow AI, it also suggests that service industries would provide work for real people. Yet it seems that even this sector is starting to see job losses and certainly a change from the idea of being skilled and stably employed to being a semi-skilled and poorly remunerated contract worker.

The remedy? Bank on pushback from humans who still know they are humans and appreciate the joy of interaction and recognition that comes with live communication and terminals. And who are wealthy enough to afford professional and anticipatory service that truly manages their lives, rather than having to do it oneself through electronic gadgetry and robots. In the same way, there will be pushback against the smartphones, tablets, laptops and whatever else we can expect in the future—Dick Tracey style watches—that have killed human interaction and communication skills.


Butler Training

This month, we have provided training in Rosewood’s Jumby Bay in the West Indies and The Langham in Boston. As always, it is a pleasure to work with professionals focused on providing the highest levels of service, whether in private service or hospitality, and even in the corporate world. A recent meeting with the President of a company showed a kindred spirit who recognized that the kind of solicitous attention given by butlers was the definitive way to build trust and relations with clients.

Baron Shortt

Executive Protection & Security

by Baron James Shortt

 Traveling in the United States

When setting up travel within the United States, I look at all of the cities and States we will be visiting and call up and speak to the different law-enforcement departments there. They have been uniformly appreciative of the outreach and offered services ranging from free increased patrols in our area, or, for a fee, either uniformed or plain clothes officers to join the team in the local area. At a minimum, they alert all of the officers on duty to our schedule, so if a call of suspicious behavior comes in, they are ready and able to check. The American populace generally has no problem calling a local police department if they see anything suspicious or out of order.

Unlike traveling to Mexico and Venezuela, where the police are part of the problem, the police in the United States have been excellent in their assistance with the “Gray Men.”

We try not to travel with any weapons. The laws are specific from state to state and location to location. As I mentioned in a previous post, a concealed-carry permit for New York State and New York City, does not allow you to carry a weapon in any of the NY Port Authority controlled areas. It’s all too confusing and opens the door for a foreigner—meaning anyone from out of state, let alone out of the country—to make a mistake.

Traveling around certain cities can be very difficult. What can take 5 minutes at 2:00 AM may take an hour during rush hour. It is often best to look at maps and congestion travel times ahead of time, work out the time demands of your charge, and then share  those travel times with your charge. Sometimes walking is the best and quickest way to travel.

Mass transit is another efficient, but decidedly less glamorous way to travel. Subways in New York, trollies in Portland, CTA in Chicago or the Washington DC Metro are all excellent systems. In these cities, all mass transit is quicker during rush hour than private cars. But it also presents a certain challenge to move a team through the various turnstiles in a coordinated fashion. Day- or week-use passes should be purchased in advance to cover the times and days of travel. Dealing with crowded travel venues is more difficult and requires a bit of pre-travel choreography so you can be prepared to, on entering stations, shove the entire team’s way onto the right railcar and then ensure everyone alights at the right stop at the right time. It is also worth the effort to scout the trains to figure out which cars are the least used, so a team of people can enter and exit with as little fuss as possible; as well as to scout stations to know which entrances and exits present the best choices.

America is a large country with significant regional differences. Language and culture differ from north to south and east to west. People love their politics and sports and home towns. The cliché that Americans do not travel belies the facts that now, over 40% of Americans have passports and the educated regularly travel overseas. The impact of Latin American and Asian immigration shows a changing face to America. Yet even after one generation, while their looks may be not European, their thinking and approach to life is decidedly American. You cannot tell by looking at anyone in the country who is an American and who is not an American. It is a fascinating place to visit and travel.

Baron Shortt is the Executive Director of the IBA


Butler/Household Manager sought for a private estate in Southern California

This is a live-out position for US citizens or Green Card holders wanting a long-term position (with off-site housing provided) that requires hands-on household management and people skills. Needs to be willing and able to fill-in on housekeeping and (basic) cooking from time to time. Some driving required, so you must have good driving skills and a valid driving license. Ideal entry position, especially for housemen wanting to move up to household manager/estate manager positions — employers are willing to provide training/ongoing training. Usual benefits; salary $40-$80K per year, DOE. If you’d like to be considered, send us your current CV/resume with photo, and we will send you a more detailed job description.

Here is an interesting perception of butlers and a first as far as we know, of butlers being sought to work in retail stores—in this case, a bespoke tailor in London looking for “the presence and diplomacy of a professional Butler” to look after their very notable customers. Kudos to management for recognizing the qualities of a butler and the value of their service style to customers (who invariably have butlers).

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 7

by Amer Vargas 

After enjoying the passion and games of the world cup for soccer in Brazil, it might be timely  to learn a bit about what is considered that country’s national spirit: cachaça.

Cachaça Reserva 51, photo by Bruno Dulcetti
Cachaça Reserva 51, photo by Bruno Dulcetti

Cachaça (pronounced kaSHAsa), is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane. Depending on the definition we use, Cachaça is sometimes considered to be rum, although the straight description of rum defines the drink as a spirit derived from the distillation of molasses, a by-product of sugar cane. The fact that Cachaça comes straight from sugar cane juice distillation provides it with a fruitier and fresher aroma, with vegetal notes and a subtle sweet taste.

After South Korean soju and Russian vodka, Cachaça is one of the most consumed spirits in the world. Between 2005 and 2009 alone, production increased 400% and exports increased in its main markets, Germany and USA, while entering new markets by virtue of the wide spread popularity of the Caipirinha cocktail—as well as the versatility of the spirit to mix well with other drinks.

The history of Cachaça began during the first half of the 16th century, when Portuguese colonizers first switched sugar production from Madeira Island to Brazil, and then transported the pot stills that were used to make aguardente de canna,  resulting in the production of  Cachaça.

Largest wooden barrel of cachaça in the world at the Ypióca's Museum of Cachaça in Maranguape, Ceará, Brazil
Largest wooden barrel of cachaça in the world at the Ypióca’s Museum of Cachaça in Maranguape, Ceará, Brazil

As with most spirits, the production of Cachaça is both an art and a science. There are five main types of sugar cane used to produce Cachaça, chosen according to sugar content and ease of fermentation of the juice. Within 36 hours of harvesting, the canes are milled to separate the juice from the “bagasse”: solid wastes later used as fuel for the pot stills. The juice undergoes fermentation after the addition of drinking water, corn meal and rice bran. The sugar cane wine is kept in tanks for about 24 hours before being moved to the pot stills, where it is then distilled.

Distillation is followed by a light filtration to provide clarity, transparency, and brightness to the drink. Some producers bottle the drink immediately after filtration; others let the drink age for 1 – 3 years, although some Cachaças are aged for up to 15 years. As with all such aging, the process is designed to  improve the aromas and flavors. When ageing is done in oak barrels, some colour and aromas from the wood will flavor the drink, whereas other woods, such as jequitibá or peanut, do not confer color but do give Cachaça a delicious taste.

To conclude with some trivia: with Brazil being what it is–a vast country, and with Cachaça being loved as it is and produced all over the country, there are more than two thousand words in the Brazilian language to refer to the drink. The creation of so many aliases comes from a time when its consumption was banned, and so the Brazilians developed a wide range of euphemisms and code words to refer to it, such as abre-coraçao (heart opener), agua-benta (holy water), bafo de tigre (tiger breath), and limpa olhos (eye-wash).

This butler is meeting with some friends for some now-famous Caipirinha and batucada (percussive Brazilian music)!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s Vice President for Europe and can be contacted via AmerVargas at

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 5 of 20

Rose Types, Again

by GJ dePillis

Last time, we reviewed the different types of roses. At some point, you may need to replace old dead plants or may want to revamp the entire look of the estate. Before you have a discussion with your gardening team, it is best to fully understand each of the rose types available. This is not a comprehensive list, but simply reviews the most popular rose types currently on the market.

Pat Austin, by David Austin Roses
Pat Austin, by David Austin Roses

Earth Kind: This company prides itself on rose research. Horticultural specialists created the brand name, together with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, which is part of Texas A&M. These roses are tested for landscape performance, disease resistance, insect tolerance and growth in a variety of soil types (from acid soils to alkaline clay soils). These rarely require pesticide use. Earth Kind are trying to create a rose requiring minimal maintenance (only pruning and slow release fertilizing, so the nitrogen doesn’t burn the rose).

China:  These roses are usually smaller with dense, twiggy foliage. Most are disease resistant and can be used as hedges and border plants. These are best for warmer climates from zones 7 to 11.

Floribunda:  These roses grow in clusters and have an excellent repeat bloom. They grow well in zones 6 to 9.

Grandifloria:  These are large bushes with large flowers on long stems. Mostly there will be single roses on long stems, but you will also see multiple flowers on a single stem. These grow well in zones 5 to 9. (Carried by or 800-256 ROSE (7673).)

Gertrude Jeckle, by David Austin
Gertrude Jeckle, by David Austin

Hybrid Musk: These roses bloom in arching clusters and are good climbers for small spaces. They also tolerate more shade than most other roses and are hardy from zones 6 to 9.

Hybrid tea: These roses have strong, but not necessarily long, stems. They make very good cut flowers for vases and are usually very fragrant. Some tea roses are thornless and some have many thorns. They grow from zones 5 to 9 mostly, but some varieties can grow in warm climates, such as zone 11.

Heritage Old roses: These roses grow differently than tea roses. The wood on the rose grows very slowly, so you don’t want to prune these back as drastically as you would a tea rose.  For Heritage roses, simply prune off old blooms and only prune these AFTER they bloom.

Knock Out Roses: This brand  is known for long lasting bloom, but the blossoms do not look like traditional roses. Some flowers only have five petals. Double Knock Outs have several full petals. They are known for hardy repeat-flowering throughout the growing season.

Drift roses: These are ground cover roses. This brand focuses on disease resistant miniatures which do well in colder climates. (Carried by or 800-256 ROSE (7673).)

Miniature Roses: These are dwarf roses and generally grow no taller than two feet tall (24”). Micro-mini are used for low ground cover and generally grow from 8” to 18” tall. These are most often used in hanging baskets, container pots, or as ground cover to fill empty spots in the landscape, as borders, etc. The mini rose is growing in popularity and is hardy in zones 5 to 10, but some up to zone 11.

Thornless Rose: There is a brand of thornless roses called “smooth touch” roses. Also there are some heritage and David Austin roses which are thornless.

  • David Austin’s Zephirine Drouhin is a breed from 1868. It has about 30 petals and is a good arbor rose. David Austin has a few other near thornless roses, which we will expand upon in upcoming articles. Most of the David Austin thornless roses are reddish to light pink.
  • Smooth Touch roses have been selected from thousands of rose bushes, encouraging the growth of the naturally thornless (90% thorn free) roses . These are available at most Lowe’s Home Improvement centers, as well as  or 760-721-7079
Jude the Obscure, by David Austin Roses
Jude the Obscure, by David Austin Roses

Butlers, please ask your gardeners to mark which types of roses your grounds have, so you can tell the difference and can inspect them at the proper time.

You are now familiar with most of the common rose types available on the market and to be found in all climate zones. Later on in this series, we will interview and investigate a couple of unique breeders for some insight into their roses.

Next in our series, we will cover how to maintain roses. This will be important for you to know what tools to buy, how those tools should be maintainted, and what schedule you can expect your gardening team to maintain.

Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis at

Jeff Herman Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

Q: Can one remove gilding on sterling flatware?

A: Yes. Many collectors want to remove vermeil (gilding) from sterling flatware. When I do so, I typically patinate the pieces and give them a light buffing for an entirely new look.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff at


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