César Ritz: The ‘King of Hoteliers’ and his Luxury Legacy

The Humble Beginnings

Born to a poor family in the Swiss village of Niederwald on 23 February 1850, César Ritz seemed an unlikely candidate to become the king of luxury hotels. Yet, he would go on to revolutionize the hotel industry, setting standards that continue to define the concept of luxury hospitality today.

The Early Years: Trials and Tribulations

César Ritz’s journey in the hospitality industry began with many setbacks. As a young apprentice sommelier in a hotel in Brig, Switzerland, he was dismissed with the harsh words, “You’ll never make anything of yourself in the hotel business. It takes a special knack, a special flair, and it’s only right that I tell you frankly you haven’t got it.” Undeterred, Ritz left Switzerland and traveled to Paris, where he gained experience working in some of the city’s finest restaurants.

Rising Star: From Waiter to Manager

In 1873, Ritz moved to the French Riviera, a popular winter destination for the British aristocracy. He was appointed as the manager of the Hôtel de Provence in Cannes, where he earned a reputation for his impeccable standards and attention to detail. Ritz introduced innovative ideas, such as placing a fresh orchid at each table and ensuring that the hotel’s bedrooms were as luxurious as its public spaces. His reputation soon caught the attention of hotelier Richard D’Oyly Carte, who invited Ritz to manage his new hotel in London, The Savoy.

The Savoy Years: Setting New Standards in Luxury

At The Savoy, Ritz created a revolution in luxury hospitality. He pioneered private bathrooms, a novelty in the 1890s, and introduced other innovations like electric lights, telephones, and elevators. The Savoy quickly became a hub for London’s high society, attracting a clientele that included luminaries like Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, and even the Prince of Wales.

Building His Own Empire: The Birth of the Ritz Hotels

Despite his success at The Savoy, Ritz harboured a dream of opening his own hotels. In 1898, he launched the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, followed by the Carlton Hotel in London in 1899. Each hotel embodied his philosophy of uncompromising luxury and personalized service.

However, the jewel in his crown was The Ritz London, opened in 1906. With its Louis XVI style interiors, it was a hotel that truly lived up to Ritz’s famous saying, “at a Ritz hotel, every customer should feel like a king.”

The Final Years: A Lasting Legacy

Despite his professional success, Ritz’s health began to decline, and he suffered from bouts of depression. In 1912, Ritz was forced to retire due to ill health, and he passed away on 26 October 1918. His wife, Marie-Louise Ritz, took over the management of his hotels and ensured that they continued to embody his vision of luxury.

The Enduring Influence of César Ritz

César Ritz’s influence on the hospitality industry is undeniable. His commitment to comfort, luxury, and impeccable service laid the foundation for modern luxury hotels. More than a century after his death, his name continues to be synonymous with unrivalled luxury and style. The Ritz hotels, with their timeless elegance and exceptional service, stand as a testament to a man whose vision redefined the boundaries of hospitality, earning him the title ‘king of hoteliers and hotelier to kings.’

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