1. Please state your full name and position. How did you develop an interest in household staffing, the modern day butler and please discuss your background.
Sara Vestin Rahmani, Owner of Bespoke Bureau & The British Butler Academy.
The Modern Day Butler – Interview with Sara Vestin Rahmani
I first arrived in London at the age of 19 as an au pair/nanny from Sweden. I went to work for a British family who took me under their wings and showed me a whole different life. One that I had never known. I was very good at my job and word got out about the super nanny.
People started asking me if I had any friends, with similar attributes to me: hard working, smart with an outgoing personality and with good English. That question, which was asked so frequently, gave me the idea to start an aupair and nanny agency. Which is what I did when I left my job with the lovely family I was with for a few years.
The Au pair and Nanny Agency – Peek-a-boo Childcare, which started in the early 2000s brought in aupairs and nannies from Sweden and the rest of Europe and placed them with prominant families across London. The agency also placed local super nannies. Nannies I had gotten to know in my nanny network. Word had gotten out and these nannies friends registered as job seekers. Word of mouth took the business forward (that is still how we operate) and it was not long before people started asking for other staff from me. If we were good enough to locate top child carers for their children, we must be able to source top domestic staff….
2. Please tell me about the history of the Bespoke Bureau. How long has the Bespoke Bureau existed? When did you open it? What does the institute offer?
…….Bespoke Bureau was born. Bespoke Bureau became it’s separate entity in 2006 and has gone from strength to strength. We have 25% of the world’s net wealth on our books with some 2000+ loyal clients, recruiting and training their staff with our agency & Academy. Royals, UHNW individuals, Oligarks, Middle Eastern Sheiks and oil billionaires. Most with multiple homes, yachts, private jets and so on. All of which we place the modern day butler and other household staff with, today.
The British Butler Academy and The Baby and Maternity Academies, were set up to ensure that candidates received full and proper training in areas they needed/wanted to improve or add to their skill base. Those academies are the only UK accredited private training institutions with full accreditation.
The British Butler Academy is a global franchise and we provide service training & etiquette training to 5 star Hotels, high end retailers and other corporations wanting their staff to be the best in Service. We also run open training courses that anyone can book into as well as offer training for our private clientele and their fleet of staff, across the globe.
A typical request is a hotel or rich household wanting to set up/improve a butler department.
Apart from The Modern Day Butler, our range of household staff consist of:
• Private chauffeurs/drivers
3. What type of families hire the modern day Butler butlers?
Europeans, Americans, Far East and Middle East families with formal set ups, often entertaining alot or wanting to adapt the old school British style service within households to their own set up.
4. How has the concept of a butler developed from the traditional idea of a British butler?
The modern day butler is a far cry from Downton Abbey’s impeccably mannered Mr Carson. In that era, the butler had to embody the virtues demanded of the head of a household, as well as polishing silver, decanting the wine, and ensuring the rest of the staff were performing their duties, looking immaculate and after the protocols of their rank. I am struggling to find any parallels between Carson’s role and that of a modern Butler that the Agency recruits for today.
In my opinion, the two most desirable qualities in a good butler are loyalty and discretion. Loyalty, but also the ability to ignore his pretensions (and there are many), and discretion as a confidant who can also stay socially aloof.
It is no surprise to me that it is English butlers who are most in demand, and that their clients are mainly from China and Russia. For the new super-rich, an English butler is a status symbol. The English are seen as refined, dignified, deferential, reserved, formal when needed, and able to adapt to any given situation without giving way to emotion or anxiety. They are also there to bring sophistication and old-world charm to the halls of their otherwise ostentatious homes; a touch of class along the gold taps and garish chandeliers.
I believe the true test of an intelligent modern butler is not how much he knows how to do, but how he behaves when he doesn’t know. Constantly by the master’s side, the Butler is privy to things that even his inner circle does not know. This can be infuriating to others and there are always political waters to navigate. But with knowledge comes power, and with power comes responsibility.
5. What types of skills does a modern day butler need to have to succeed on the job market?
Skills are not as important as attitude. Their attitude is the most required skill and it should be: discreet, submissive, proactive (or reactive), have the ability to let things wash over them, 100% flexible, well-mannered, dignified, willing to please and have service at heart.
Skills that are a must are however: wine and food. Service: guest service skills, housekeeping, interior knowledge, butler service, silver service and most forms of dining service, table lay out and decoration, service etiquette, meet and greet, ironing, shoe care.
6. Can you please discuss the British Butler Academy?
We are the world’s leading Elite Service Training school. We run courses throughout the year at our client’s private and corporate settings. Hotels, Member clubs, high-end retail, yachts, jets and houses/palaces/estates. We run open courses for the public also, which anyone can apply to.
Throughout the years, the prestigious British Butler Academy has won recognition nationally and internationally. Probably the most sought-after Butler academy in the world. We provide training for Service Staff in VIP households, Hotels, Super Yachts and Cabin Crew in the UK, China, Middle East, Russia and around Europe. We are a franchise and have partners in all corners of the globe, carrying our methods and brand for/with us.
The British Butler Academy offers a unique chance for people wanting to enter the industry. We also run advanced courses for those already working in the industry. It is our aim at The British Butler Academy to teach each student to become the best in an industry that we love and are very proud of.
Courses offered at The British Butler Academy:
• Butler Training for The Modern day Butler with a traditional twist
• Silver Service training
• Elite guest service training
• House management training
• Yacht interior & service training
• Social etiquette training
• British accent training
• Butler department set up
• Front of house/Reception training
• Laundry and Wardrobe Management training
The Baby & Maternity Academy offers the following qualifications:
• Maternity Nurse Diploma (called Baby Nanny in the US I believe)
• Professional Nanny Diploma
7. Where, most often, do your butlers find employment? What is the difference between skills needed to be a personal butler or a commercial butler?
On the training we do, we get to know the students and our recruitment team from the Agency, Bespoke Bureau go there and scout for talent. They will easily spot the difference between a good private butler and a corporate butler. The corporate butler has to be more of a team member and suits social, more outgoing types who are happy to fit into a crowd. A private butler can have many sides to him and personalities but tend to be a bit more traditional, quiet or quirky in another day. He or she typically works better alone or as part of a small team.
We place most butlers which we graduate in a private family or corporate setting. That is one of the benefits of training with us – that we can offer employment after the training.
8. What is, in general, the pay scale for a position as a butler? Is the job market strong or weak in 2016?
Solid. Our market is not touched by the global economy or any downturns. It is such a unique niche market where the pricing on top domestic staff is always good. The rich are as rich, if not richer than before and do not wish to budge or cut salaries of their most precious parts of the household (after their children). These staff run the client’s life and are in many ways price less.
Private butlers earn better than corporate with starting salaries of 30000GBP gross per year. A seasoned Butler can earn 45-65K a year in the UK. Overseas it can easily double but tens to mean that they have to work around the clock. Which is a job they only last in a few years.
9. Have you placed any butlers in the Midwest US? Do you know anything about the job market for modern-day butlers in the Midwest?
We have wonderful clients in the Mid-West. A newcomer to us in St Louis, Missouri for example, wanting a fleet of British and British trained staff ONLY from us. They have been recommended us by British friends.
A client who is a Gent who has inherited a lot of money in Michigan who wants a fully staffed ‘party’ home for all his national and international friends.
Longstanding clients in the Mid-west, recruiting their butlers, nannies and housekeepers from us since some 10 years back exist.
We find that our Mid-west clients are keen to experience some old age British charm in their lives/homes and that is why they come to us. To locate refined household staff.
We love our Mid-west clients. In fact, all American clients. As a general rule of thumb, they are straight forward, easy to communicate with, generous and fair employers. Plain sailing I say and we would LOVE more clients from your part of the world.
We have also conducted some Modern Day Butler department set up in the Mid-West in one hotel but not much more. We would love to get more corporate clients over your end and recruit/train local staff in refined service training to bring our old school style and charm to your part of the world too.