The discreet and efficient butler — handling everything from packing and car arrangements to food service and errands with both tact and aplomb — may seem a relic of the past. But believe it or not, they still exist. Vogue recently explored how the modern-day butler stays up to speed on the ever-evolving world of servitude, highlighting the most critical dos and don’ts of the profession today.
Enter the British Butler Institute (yes, for reals) which provides instructional courses for those eager to work in luxury hotels around the globe. While trainers use clips of Downton Abbey during their two-week instructional course, they also focus on more of-the-moment concerns.
For example,“American ladies don’t want to be called madame. It would be ma’am, or something more casual, like by their name,” explains says Gary Williams, the firm’s principal.
Other “dos” include: “TV dinner etiquette” which is explored in a nine-day course highlighting how today’s savviest servants should present microwave meals and set tables for heads of state who are eager to chow down less formally while watching Netflix. In this digital age, staff must also learn to keep their Google-hand strong and perform cyber recognizance about upcoming guests.
As Adam Bardetta, the director of operations at luxe hotel The Mulia in Bali, which employs the Butler Institute’s services, explains, “We’ll do everything we can to learn about the guests, to understand who they are before they get here, then tailor the delivery of service, the delivery of product, prior to their arrival.”
Good service also means learning how to iron newspapers, perfecting floral arrangements and knowing the five occasions butlers should don white gloves: opening doors, formal dining and its setup, packing a suitcase and handling glass and silverware.
And the ultimate don’t of butler club? Never become obtrusive. “We abide by the three-monkeys rule,” says Bardetta. “Hear nothing, say nothing, see nothing.”