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Butler history Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, April 2021, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

PART 47: SERVING AT TABLE

It seems that no checklists were in use, so things were often not done on time; nobody was drilled on their station/where to stand, or who would bring the sauce, etc., so again, things were not done or were done clumsily, the whole event being like some slapstick comedy as the wait staff fell over each other to see to requests by guests that should not have had to be made in the first place.

One word of advice was to lay only the silverware for that course, which is not what was done a century later, or indeed today, for formal dinners, where silverware for all courses are laid beforehand to minimize distractions for guests.

More advice: Only have senior staff serving guests, as they would know the individuals and the order of precedence for serving them according to their rank; in this way, the junior staff could follow with vegetables, sauces, and breads, in the right sequence.

One other trick: The butler would place napkins or other table cloths over the tablecloth so that when the last course, dessert, was to be served, these could be removed, leaving a clean tablecloth underneath.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT pryor-publications.co.uk).

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
Butler history Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2021, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

 

PART 46: Professional events require trained and drilled staff.

Another area of trouble was lack of training and drilling, the example given starting with an uneducated butler being assisted by uneducated waiters drawn from the stable hands and the hall boy, as well as two experienced footmen attached to the guests but who were not shown the ropes before the dinner started. All this in order to provide a good ratio of waiters to guests (in the example given, 6 staff for 14 guests).

The answer to such was to know the skills of each helper ahead of time and to show them the ropes as much as possible—easier than it sounds in the days before phones, emails, and text messages for instant relay of information. So it became better to have only skilled staff interacting directly with the guests and the rest assisting in the background. This gave rise to the other extreme: Having too few staff to provide proper service, so the staff were not «waiting» on the guests, but the guests on the staff.

Which brings us to the derivation of the words «wait» staff and «waiter;» which is «to be awake» and later applied to a watchman who is awake at night, observing carefully while waiting. Two centuries ago, multiple footmen would stand behind the guests throughout the meal, waiting to provide the next needed service at the direction of the butler. And so we see how footmen and their butler senior, who were the original waiters, gave birth to the concept of the modern waiter, and also, perhaps, why in modern times, so many people confuse butlers with waiters, not realizing that waiting at table is a very small (but important and traditional) part of the job description.

 

 

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT pryor-publications.co.uk).

 

 

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
Butler history Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, February 2021, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

PART 45: WAITING AT TABLE

It is encouraging to see that the same advice we dispense today on how a butler «waits» was given two centuries ago. If some accident occurs, keep yourself as «quiet and cool» as possible in the event the principal blames you for it publicly; and if it was not your error, pick a time later on to defend yourself in private with the principal.

Accidents will occur if one serves with the left hand from the right side, or the right hand from the left side.

Do not attract the attention of a guest when bringing a drink on a tray by nudging his arm with it. Instead, holding the waiter (tray) in the left hand, place the drink discreetly on the table with the right hand when the guest is engaged in conversation to his left; or if he or she is talking to someone on his right, hold the tray in the right hand (behind the guest) and place the glass in front of him with the left hand from the left side. While the butler handling the glass was frowned upon, it was considered better to do so than to keep other guests waiting, if short staffed, while waiting for the guest to notice you.

Likewise, it was frowned upon for a butler to laugh in front of guests.

Obviously, plates were not manufactured as well as they are today, because one problem was they were known to break in two as they were being served—the error being the chef plating food onto plates that presumably were cracked. In this case, the butler would be standing with half a plate of food in his hand and the other half on the table or floor.

 

 

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT pryor-publications.co.uk).

 

 

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.