So how does Magnums Academy prepare butlers for the rigours of modern day butlering and what advice can be given? – Josephine Ive Firstly, butlers are expected to fulfill all demands as best as possible, no matter how eccentric, peculiar or challenging. If a guest wants champagne at 1:30 in the morning, a black tie dinner at 5am, a steak sandwich on white bread at midnight or caviar on white toast for breakfast, then so be it. It’s your job as a butler to organize and deliver, completely without judgment.
Although it seems I have only worked as a butler or teacher, actually I trained as a Chef and did a full apprenticeship. I have also worked as a breakfast waitress, a bartender, a housekeeper, a room service attendant, an au pair, concierge, receptionist and dishwasher! I have never worked as an engineer or a gardener but I am pretty handy with a screwdriver or a pair of garden shears! With a Chef and caterers background, I love cooking and dining, and I think butlers are wise to get some basic training in these areas, as it helps them understand guests needs more clearly. The is also a compelling reason for being wise about wine, it is particularly difficult to advise guests about wine if you don’t drink, however, we often use other techniques to ensure a deeper understanding such as recognizing aromas and bouquets of wine. Good service is all about the details – small minute details, and anticipating the needs and desires of clients and guests. Our approach is using techniques involving emotional connection, turning situations around, putting yourself in the guest shoes so that a good butler should be able to foresee a guests desire before he or she has barely thought about it. Anticipation is key, sometimes what might seems unimportant or insignificant to you as a butler is likely to be the defining moment in a guests stay, such as a welcoming bath with candles and rose petals, a carefully chosen and placed bottle of champagne, a pot of fabulous hot chocolate with some ‘out of this world’ cookies. It should all be possible and not have to be requested. In other words, Butlers delivery the ultimate service without waiting for guests to drive the service. A really good butler needs to be pro-active, in fact, relentless, but unobtrusive, in learning about every client or guests individual tastes. Good butlers are at least observant but exceptional butlers ‘see’ everything. They watch, they listen, they observe carefully – habits, facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and so on. Without this valuable information it is hard to perform impressively. Other criteria for successful butlering included stamina, endurance and patience. Whilst some guest can be very annoying, it is also their prerogative, they can be forgiven for being pedantic or idiosyncratic, this, in fact, makes looking after these guests all the more interesting. One word of caution, however tempting it is to appear to be the super smart butler, resist the urge to be too clever, second guess, rush around, interrupt guests or be too quick to answer before thinking. Certain things are expected of a butler, such as always knowing how to address people, setting the table accurately, ironing a shirt perfectly, packing suitcases and elegantly serving drinks, whether it’s a fine cognac or the most basic beer. These days having your suitcases packed may not be high on the guests priorities, but a few tips. Use quality tissue paper, reduce the number of folds as possible, load heavy items on the bottom and lighter items towards the top, resist the urge to put dirty laundry on top and remember this part of a butlers job is the ‘after sales’ service. When setting the table, be methodical, our technique of creating a professional dining mise-en-place works really efficiently, ensuring stunning and accurate results. With an increase in expected standards, reviews and social media there is so much pressure for everyone now not just for butlers. Being thoughtful, kind and considerate should be your mainstay in handling clients and guests, checking satisfaction is not just about asking if there is anything more you can assist with, it is about being genuinely interested and realizing that going the extra mile in recognizing that your guest would prefer well-thought-out options rather than having to answer this somewhat over-used cliché. And something else to bear in mind, just because people have money and wealth doesn’t mean they don’t feel lonely or sad, it is often quite the opposite. When a butler remains unobtrusive it demonstrates an understanding of the desire for privacy. Butlers relish connecting and engaging with their clients and guests, it’s what makes the job so fascinating and fulfilling.