For any household, hotel, or business that has one, a butler plays an important part. They are, in many cases, the heart of the home, responsible for managing most household tasks and chores and any other staff that work under them.
Traditionally, a butler’s duties are not much different from their modern duties. However, technology and industry have changed the scope of the butler’s responsibilities somewhat.
Learn about what it takes to become a butler and what is involved with this very important job.
The duties and responsibilities of a butler are to manage the home or business that the butler works in.
Traditionally, butlers were once males in formal uniform, but today it is an equal-opportunity position where both men and women can take on the task of running a household or administrative needs of a hotel or business.
Becoming a butler requires managerial skills or experience and a breadth of knowledge of the services offered in the hospitality industry.
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The history of a butler’s role goes back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Great Britain when aristocrats needed someone in the home to manage extra household duties and chores.
The word “butler” comes from the term “buteler” which is derived from the French “bouteille” for “bottle.”
Managing the wine cellars or liqueur collections was once a key role of the first butlers and still is today.
Additionally, in England, most households in the middle-class range and above were run with staff. It was the way of life.
A butler would be required to ensure the staff was performing their roles as expected and that the important details of the house were taken care of.
The serving of the wine was a traditional butler role – and a key role at that. Wine cellars had value and were considered an asset even in the eighteenth century, and the specialized staff was required to maintain them.
To distinguish themselves from other staff, the butler would wear a more formal uniform than any other staff member called a morning suit.
Today’s butlers will wear what their employers or principals ask of them, and there is no set requirement.
Butlers stayed “in fashion” or as a must-have for the home until the First World War. It was then that the numbers began to decline, as every class of life, including aristocrats, had to make cuts and sacrifices to be able to eat in a time when there was no work but military service.
After both great wars, many families, even in the upper class, became accustomed to both not having a butler and living without the expense of one.
So, the number of butlers has declined in the world, but they are still very popular roles filled today.
Many households in Great Britain, America, and Canada still have butlers. When the house becomes too much to manage, a butler may be the first staff hired by a family, who, in turn, may help to determine the need for additional staff.
Are butlers a must in some modern homes?
There is really no answer to this, as it all depends on the square footage of the home, the assets of the home, and the capabilities of the family in question to manage it on their own.
A home the size of Kensington Palace, for example, would require staff for even the most minor maintenance.
When a family cannot manage basic duties in the home because of their jobs, disability, or family needs, a butler is considered a must.
Butlers also operate with ultimate discretion, and this is a job requirement as well. This is someone who will be paying bills, taking phone calls, answering the guests’ doors, and ensuring that the assets of the home such as wine and silver are secure.
It is not just urban legend that butlers become close to the family or business, it happens because they need to be close to their employers in order to perform their job well and serve the family in the best possible way.
While there is still a staff hierarchy in every home with a butler, the butler is at the top of the ladder because of how close to the family they need to be.
It is still a coveted and elite role today and is typically the highest-paid employee or contractor for any family with a staff.
The duties of a butler go beyond just answering the door – the most commonly thought of duty for a butler.
They are expected to manage almost everything in the home beyond basic housekeeping, and then, only if the house already has housekeepers.
If the house doesn’t, the butler has to do everything the principals want them to do.
The primary concern of the butler is to make sure that the family is taken care of in every way.
That starts with the principals, typically parents, and then extends to the children. In many homes with a butler, there are people assigned to take care of the children specifically.
The principals are the butler’s priorities and butlers will have to do everything from managing their wardrobe to answering their phone calls.
The bills will need to be paid, the vehicles need to be maintained, groceries and inventory of food supplies must be kept up, laundry must be performed, and assets must be maintained.
For a butler, those assets include the wine cellars, artwork, silver, antiques, and any other asset the principal wants to have them maintain.
The butler also organizes social activities and holidays for the family and ensures that family events and dinners are coordinated.
A key reason for that is that the butler will be performing the service for these events and needs to be in the loop on every possible detail.
Safety and security are also a primary priority for the butler, and they may need to manage the security system or ensure that someone is doing that job right.
The appliances need to be maintained, and the home needs to be managed overall.
A butler will earn approximately $50,000 annually, but it can be higher or lower depending on the family and their needs.
The butler will also likely have more hours than the average workweek and can work as many as 60 hours a week, as their job duties and responsibilities are heavy.
Most butlers will get at least one day off, and sometimes two if the employer can let them go more than one day.
In many cases, a butler will also get room and board in addition to or taken off of their salary.
Most butlers are still live-in today, but many butlers are not. Butlers can commute to their homes and families and still go home to their own homes on their time off if it is permitted as part of their job description.
The salary of a butler will depend on a number of things, including the location of the job, the size of the home and family, and the number of hours required.
There will be instances where the work is too much for the butler to manage, and for those homes, a footman will be hired as a butler’s assistant of sorts.
In those cases, the footman will be responsible for all of the butler’s duties during the butler’s time off.
A footman is below the rank of a butler by one level, and when working alongside the butler, will have the lower responsibilities of the daily duties.
There is no educational experience required to become a butler, but you will need to have some hospitality experience.
Some schools in England do offer butler courses and schedules, and they can range in length from one week to a full year.
Many employers will expect at least a high school education or the equivalent, but some may not even have that if you have exceptional managerial or hospitality skills or experience.
On a resume, exceptional experience in the hospitality industry will stand out more than an individual’s education.
A good thing to have on your resume is Silver Service qualifications or experience in the culinary arts.
Knowing and understanding the wine industry will also be a tremendous asset.
A second language will help as well. If you aren’t sure where to start here, start with the most common second languages in the world, including Spanish or French.
Additionally, experience in purchasing inventory or managing it, superior organizational skills, or prior experience as a butler will also be excellent tools to add to your resume.
There are additional kinds of butlers besides live-in or family butlers. Many large hotels and upscale resorts that are five-diamond or five-star ratings will have butlers employed.
They will have all of the same duties as a personal butler, but with fewer personalized job duties like bill payments.
In a hotel, the butler is responsible for giving a personalized service to every person or family that checks in.
They must have a personalized knowledge base of the guests and their needs. A butler will tend to their dining needs, housekeeping management, and also ensure the family has every need that might crop up when they are at the hotel or resort.
For a hotel butler, experience in the hospitality industry is a must. Employees will have to be well-groomed and be able to maintain a high level of standard for the hotel and be discrete about the hotel guest’s personal information.
Butlers in hotels must be able to understand people and the hospitality industry and must be able to provide the exceptional service guests come to expect when someone has been hired specifically to wait on them hand and foot.