I Want Your Job: Butler

'You need absolute discretion'

Alex McRae
Thursday 27 March 2008 01:00
Butler Ryan Delzoppo says it's important to be patient and tactful, and be able to think fast when dealing with unusual requests
Butler Ryan Delzoppo says it's important to be patient and tactful, and be able to think fast when dealing with unusual requests

Ryan Delzoppo, 29, is a hotel butler at the May Fair Hotel in London.

What do you actually do?

I look after guests staying in the hotel's 10 suites. Basically, it's my job to make sure that the guests' arrival and departure go smoothly, and that every whim is catered for during their stay. I call guests before they arrive to see if they'd like me to arrange transfers, and I check the rooms to make sure everything is spotless and has been arranged down to the last detail. For example, if I know that our guest is health-conscious, I'll make sure there are some fitness magazines on the coffee table – or if it's a couple celebrating an anniversary, I'll send up chocolate-dipped strawberries and champagne on ice.

What's your work schedule like?

My hours vary dramatically, depending on the demands of the hotel. I usually start at 7am, checking rooms and discussing any special requirements with the housekeeping staff and the chef. Sometimes I don't finish until after 11pm. If there's a very important guest staying for two weeks, then I don't take a break until after they've left. Guests can contact me at any time, with any request, and I'll try to accommodate it. I might be ringing round to find sold-out concert tickets, arranging a helicopter transfer, or trotting round London to find out-of-season flowers. Once I had to sort out the delivery of a new Ferrari from Manchester to London. So long as it's legal, it's a case of not saying "no".

What do you love about it?

I like helping people and being there for special occasions. We've even helped out with a few proposals, scattering rose petals around the room while the couple is out at dinner. You get to mix with celebrities, politicians and business magnates, and you're privy to people's private lives, which can be fascinating.

What's not so great?

The hours can be very long and unsociable. There have been times when I've been about to go home late at night, then had to call my partner and apologise because something's come up. Saturday and Sunday are often the busiest days at the hotel, so weekends don't mean anything.

What skills do you need to do the job well?

You need to pride yourself on absolute discretion, manners and politeness. It's also important to be patient and tactful, and be able to think fast when dealing with unusual requests. An eye for detail is essential, because half the job is preparation and pre-empting people's needs. You also need a thorough knowledge of etiquette and fine dining, and to know how to serve drinks and set a table correctly.

What advice would you give someone with their eye on your job?

Being a butler requires you to wear a lot of different hats – you need to know about concierge services, food, beverages, and housekeeping. So getting a position in a hotel is a good way to start, because it will teach you about those different areas. I have a degree in hotel management, and there are also courses in butlering available, which could be a good starting point. However, the old-school butlers don't usually have university degrees – your personal qualities are far more important.

What's the salary and career path like?

A junior butler might start on £15,000 a year, while a head butler in a hotel might earn about £50,000 a year. There's a boom in private butlers at the moment – the job is very much alive and well, and I've heard of some private butlers earning between £100,000 and £200,000 a year. If you choose to work in a hotel, you may also get perks like travel and discounts on hotel stays.

For more information on careers and training as a butler, visit www.butlersguild.com; www.guildofbutlers.com; www.instituteofhospitality.org; or www.igbh.com.

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