The Job and What's Involved

Butlers usually work for an individual or family requiring assistance in the running of their household.

Duties vary depending on an employer's needs, but may include:

  • Answering the telephone and door.
  • Greeting and looking after guests.
  • Making travel arrangements, and booking hotels and restaurants.
  • Organising parties.
  • Catering for the family or for large dinner parties.
  • Supervising household staff, including nannies, cooks, cleaners and gardeners.
  • Light household duties.
  • Overseeing security.
  • Wardrobe management and clothing care.
  • Overseeing the wine cellar and acting as toastmaster.
  • Hiring and supervising outside contractors.
  • Looking after household furniture and antiques.

Modern household butlers are likely to have a variety of roles, including valet, chauffeur, personal assistant, chef and even bodyguard. They may also have household management duties, such as the administration of bills, inventories, and hiring and firing staff.

Butlers also work in the hospitality industry. Duties at a luxury hotel may include:

  • Ensuring that everything is in order prior to the guests' arrival (including maid service, flower arrangements and technical facilities).
  • Reviewing the guest list to check special requirements.
  • Greeting guests and providing information on hotel facilities.
  • Offering refreshments.
  • Helping to unpack luggage and assist with any laundry requests.
  • Being on call for the guests.
  • Liaising with other hotel departments to ensure that guests' requirements are met.

Butlers generally work 40 hours a week, although some roles demand much longer hours, including early starts, late nights and weekend working. This is particularly the case in country residences when the household is full of guests. They may be asked to work additional hours at very short notice, and may be on call during the night.

Butlers may work in luxury hotels, city townhouses, stately homes or country estates. Some butlers 'live in' and have their own apartment or cottage on the premises.

The role is physically demanding, involving a lot of walking, standing and climbing up stairs or even ladders.

Some employers travel widely and expect their butlers to accompany them on trips overseas, which can involve long or short periods away from home.

Butlers are expected to dress formally most of the time.

A driving licence may be useful and is sometimes required.

The starting salary for a butler may be around £17,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Butlers are usually employed by wealthy families or VIPs, such as successful business executives, embassy staff, celebrities and royalty.

An increasing number of organisations, including hotels and financial institutions, offer a butling service to their clients. There are also opportunities to work in contract catering and lifestyle management companies. Many jobs are in the USA, the Middle East or other foreign countries.

This is a growing profession. Opportunities are increasing, especially for those who are prepared to be flexible and assist with the family, organise the household and act as a personal assistant.

Vacancies are advertised in magazines, such as Discretion Magazine, and on specialist recruitment websites. There are also a number of domestic staff agencies that advertise posts.

Education and Training

It is rare for someone to become a butler without previous work experience. Employers look for candidates with the necessary social skills and the ability to handle the demands of the role. Academic qualifications are not always required, although qualifications in general hospitality and catering may be useful.

Traditionally, a butler started as a houseman, footman or under-butler, with responsibility for tasks such as cleaning, maintenance, moving furniture and luggage. However, people with a hotel or catering background now often transfer their skills into butling. Some employers look for experience of food and beverages in a high-class establishment.

Private butler training schools in the UK and overseas run courses for people who wish to become butlers and may also help to place their students. These courses can be very expensive.

Language skills can be useful. A driving licence and a current passport may also be required.

Some employers may not recruit people with dependents (a spouse or children).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is on the job, with new entrants gradually taking on more responsibility as they gain in experience.

It is possible to study for nationally-recognised qualifications, including:

- City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma for Butlers
- NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Food and Drink Service
- NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Hospitality Supervision

Formal in-house training programmes are provided by some organisations, including the royal household and some of the large hotel chains.

Hotel butlers are fully trained in all aspects of food and drink service, as well as housekeeping or valet service.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A butler needs to be:

  • Totally discreet, trustworthy and loyal.
  • Skilful at dealing with all classes of people.
  • Immaculately presented and well-mannered.
  • A good organiser with excellent attention to detail.
  • Calm, flexible and able to multi-task
  • Able to anticipate a guest or employer's needs.
  • Someone who adheres to consistently high standards.
  • Polite and friendly, even after a long day.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced butlers may apply for positions as head butler in prestigious households. They can become household managers, with responsibility for the smooth running of several establishments, or multi-million pound estates, including yachts and private jets.

Within hotels, staff can progress to managerial roles, possibly setting up new butler divisions and organising recruitment and training.

Get Further Information

The Guild of Professional English Butlers,
PO Box 35, Hayling Island PO11 0ZN
Tel: 02392 637919
Website: www.guildofbutlers.com

Institute of Hospitality, Trinity Court,
34 West Street, Sutton, Surrey SM1 1SH
Tel: 020 8661 4900
Website: www.instituteofhospitality.org

The International Guild of Professional Butlers
Website: www.butlersguild.com

People 1st, 2nd Floor, Armstrong House,
38 Market Square, Uxbridge UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000
Website: www.people1st.co.uk

The Springboard Charity & Springboard UK Ltd, Coopers' Hall,
13 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4TH
Tel: 020 7497 8654
Website: www.springboarduk.net

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