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PART I: Birth of the Ritz-Carlton Mystique
Consider these familiar names:
· The Matterhorn
· The Masters
· The Hope Diamond
· The Grand Canyon
· The Parthenon
An unlikely combination? Not at all, because they share a common factor.
They garner unmatched respect, worldwide. Mention any of them, and words
like these come to mind: “tops in their field,” “awe inspiring,”
“prestigious,” “highest quality,” “the finest,” “in a
class of their own,” and “breathtaking.”
Here’s a name we can add to the list, quite justifiably: The
Ritz-Carlton. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel’s magnificent customer
service—combining resplendent facilities with the ultimate in personal
attention—prompts every guest to exhaust his or her dictionary of
superlatives. Guests remark that they are “pampered,”
“respected,” “treated like royalty,” and “incurably
You have heard of the Malcolm Baldrige award, named after the U.S.
Secretary of Commerce who served from 1981 until his death in 1987.
Baldrige believed that high caliber management would guarantee
America’s prosperity and solidify its position of world leadership. He
became a highly vocal advocate of exemplary service.
Congress established the Malcolm Baldrige Award in 1987, with these
predominant criteria: An organization must deliver ever-improving value
to customers and improve the organization’s overall performance.
The selection committee, comprised of 300 experts in quality and
business, named the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as a recipient twice—in
1992 and 1999. No other entrant in the service division has been
successful more than once.
More recently, J.D. Power and Associates, a global marketing information
services firm-- basing its awards upon survey responses from millions of
customers internationally--named the Ritz-Carlton Hotel “Highest in
Guest Satisfaction Among Luxury Hotel Chains” for 2003. The
Ritz-Carlton led “in each measure of guest satisfaction.” For the
two preceding years, the Ritz-Carlton had ranked second, competing for
the top spot with Four Seasons, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and
The hotel’s press release stated: Out of 1,000 possible points,
Ritz-Carlton scored 880, 41 points ahead of its nearest competitor, for
what President and Chief Operating Officer Simon F. Cooper called a
“validation of The Ritz-Carlton vision to grow and extend its brand,
without sacrificing our long-standing commitment to providing the finest
service and surroundings to our guests.”
Additionally, the Ritz-Carlton merits fourth place ranking among the
“strongest brands in the world,” according to Gerard van Grinsven,
Vice President/Area General Manager, Ritz-Carlton of Dearborn, Michigan.
He has contributed significantly to the strength of the brand, leading
the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn to become the most improved hotel in the
system for 2002, according to monthly customer satisfaction ratings
conducted by Gallup. He had learned the Ritz-Carlton system at the
Seoul, Korea, hotel, prior to becoming food and beverage vice president
for Ritz-Carlton worldwide, a post he held for six years before his move
There’s an old song, “How long has this been going on?” That’s
worth exploring. How, when, where, and by whom did the Ritz-Carlton
CESAR RITZ, THE PIONEER
No novelist could come up with a more intriguing story. Flash back to
the hotelier Cesar Ritz, known as “the king of hoteliers and hotelier
to kings.” His name became associated with the most renowned hotels of
his day, including the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo, the Savoy in London,
and then as manager of The Ritz in Paris, starting in 1898, and The
Carlton in London, opened in 1906. Obviously, the Paris and London hotel
names combined ultimately for the Ritz-Carlton combination we know.
Cesar Ritz established the benchmark for luxury hotels in Europe. He
formed the framework for the Ritz-Carlton service philosophy, with
comments like this: “Never say no when a client asks for something,
even if it is for the moon. You can always try.”
The Ritz-Carlton’s dining legacy began when Cesar Ritz teamed up with
culinary genius Auguste Escoffier. Learning the hotel trade together at
the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo, they later assumed leadership roles at
the Savoy in London, with Cesar Ritz serving as General Manager and
Escoffier as Head of Restaurant Services. Ambitious though they were,
they could not have envisioned their impact on luxury hotels around the
world, long beyond their lifetimes.
Insisting on the highest standard of hygiene, Cesar Ritz preferred white
walls in guest rooms, so that even a cursory inspection would detect
unwanted marks. Not surprisingly, his reputation for excellence and
elegance coined new sayings: “ritzy” and “Puttin’ on the
COMING TO AMERICA
As for the instantly recognizable logo, Cesar Ritz selected the crown,
symbolic of the British royal seal, and the lion, signifying a financial
Upon his death in 1918, his wife Marie continued the expansion of his
hotels. America came into the picture with the Ritz-Carlton in Boston in
1927. Soon other Ritz-Carltons followed in major cities like New York,
Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. However, only the Boston hotel survived
the Great Depression.
The Ritz-Carlton Boston exemplified the vision of Cesar Ritz. To reflect
the royal atmosphere and treatment, room rates soared to the then
sizable sum of $15 per night.
A humorous historical note: Edward Wyner, the Boston hotel’s founder,
knew the Ritz-Carlton must maintain an aura of success, despite the
gloom of the Great Depression. His answer was elementary. He kept the
lights on in vacant rooms, to suggest one hundred percent occupancy.
ESTABLISHING THE STANDARDS
The Boston Ritz-Carlton introduced room and service standards
unprecedented in America, now considered de rigueur for luxury hotels.
· Private bath in guest room
· Elevated dress codes: white tie and apron uniforms for waiters and
waitresses, black tie for the Maitre d’ and morning suits for all
other staff. (Note that this was adopted decades before the term
“dress for success” permeated the business arena.)
· Intimate, smaller lobbies, contrasting with the customary expansive
lobbies that afforded little quiet or privacy for conversations
FORMING THE COMPANY
Another corporate milestone occurred in 1983, with the sale of the
Boston Ritz-Carlton, and the establishment of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Over the next ten years, the company expanded rapidly, adding thirty
hotels. Today fifty-six hotels, scattered from San Francisco to Seoul,
Korea, from Boston to Bali, display the Ritz-Carlton logo.
As every guest knows, you move from one Ritz-Carlton hotel to another
without noticing a transition. The décor and service match what you
have seen in every other Ritz-Carlton. You encounter no surprises, and
certainly no disappointments. The hotel replicates its perfection,
regardless of locale, climate, or language.
Although the Marriott Corporation purchased the Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Company in 1998, the Ritz-Carlton name remains prominent. Cesar Ritz
would be pleased that the “customer is king” concept he initiated
lives in his namesake hotels.
CUSTOMER SERVICE AND SHARING THE FORMULA
In our next article, we will explore the highly acclaimed Ritz-Carlton
customer service, with assistance from the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn’s
Vice President/Area General Manager, Gerard van Grinsven, and Laura
Gutierrez, his Director of Human Resources.
Our third article will explain and describe the Ritz-Carlton’s
commitment to sharing its formula for business success with leaders from
other industries, through a new yet highly successful Legendary Service
Symposium, held at the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn annually.
Keep reading, to learn more about the Ritz-Carlton, where “We are
Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” © Copyright
2003 EXPERT Magazine
Bill Lampton, Ph.D., “Helps You Finish in First Place.” He spoke to
the managers of the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun when the hotel celebrated its
sixth anniversary, and he has spoken for conventions at the Ritz-Carlton
Buckhead in Atlanta and the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. Among his other
hospitality clients: the Radisson Diamond Cruise Ship. He wrote a
popular book, The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication,
Change Your Life! Dr. Lampton provides leadership in communication,
customer service, sales, and motivation. Check his Web site: www.ChampionshipCommunication.com
Call 800-393-0114 or 770-534-3425, and e-mail him: [email protected]
© Copyright 2003 ExpertMagazine.com
|Bill Lampton, Ph.D.
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