Letter: Le patron travaille ici

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Sir: With regard to Mr T. Hart's letter of 1 September concerning hotel staffing , it has been the experience of my wife and I when staying in French and British hotels of a similar standard that the reason for the different numbers of full-time staff in the two countries is not that wages in France are higher.

In a French hotel the patron and patronne would usually deal personally with the kitchen, the reception and other duties, while their children who are old enough would often wait at table or do other work in the establishment. The hotel would probably have been a family concern for some time. In its British equivalent, our experience has been that the owners, who usually have bought the place as a 'nice little earner' after a career in something unrelated to catering, would do little more than possibly serve the odd drink and chat up customers, while all the actual work is done by hired staff.

This may also explain why British hotel prices are often at least twice those charged by their French counterparts.

Moreover, the staff employed in British hotels are not always properly trained professionals. In one 'upmarket' hotel restaurant, we increasingly felt that we were on the set of Fawlty Towers.

Yours faithfully,