1950s Style Statler Service, Ahead of Its Time

While researching the life of Ellsworth M.  Statler for my upcoming book (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry), I was able to acquire a copy of the Statler Service Code (61st edition).  Its instructions about guest treatment are so pertinent for today’s marketplace, that I thought they should be shared universally.

The late E. M. Statler founded his business on the simple precept that “the guest must be pleased.” When he established the first Hotel Statler, in Buffalo in 1908, he said it this way:

“A hotel has just one thing to sell.  That one thing is service.  The hotel that sells poor service is a poor hotel.  The hotel that sells good service is a good hotel.  It is the object of the Hotel Statler to sell its guests the very best service in the world.”

And later as he built more hotels, always on this same principle, he said:

“Statler Hotels are operated primarily for the comfort and convenience of their guests.  Without guests there could be no Statler hotels.  These are simple facts, easily understood.  It behooves every man and woman employed here to remember this always, and to treat all guests with courtesy and careful consideration.”

Gradually, Mr. Statler’s precepts became an integrated code: the Statler Service Code, which outlined for employees the ideals of the founder.   The Code aroused so much interest that many years ago it was made available to guests, and became a Statler tradition.  From it new employees learned what was meant by Statler Service; and from it guests gained a better understanding of what Statler Service meant to members of the Statler organization and to themselves.

What is the Statler Service?

Perfect hotel service is not the accomplishment of any single employee to any single guest.  Service, as interpreted by Statler, means the maximum of courteous and efficient attention given by each employee to each individual guest.

This is the kind of service a Statler guest pays for- the kind to which he is entitled, whatever the size of the bill.

Every guest who comes through the Statler door has chosen that door rather than some other because he believes his money will buy him better service and better accommodations at Statler than anywhere else.  Whether he goes back out that door satisfied with what he has found inside depends upon every employee who works at that hotel. Little Things Make a Big Difference

The first Statler employee the guest sees is the doorman.  He can swing the door in a way that bids the traveler welcome, or he can do it in a way that arouses resentment in the guest and makes him expect a cold, impersonal reception at the room desk.

When the room clerk says, “Thank you, Mr. Robinson, the bellman will show you to Room 1252,” instead of shouting, “Front Room 1252,” the guest’s comfortable feeling of warmth and welcome grows.  This feeling in a guest means he will take pleasure in spending his dollars at the Statler—and it adds dollars to the salaries of the employees who are responsible for the feeling.

The operator who is quick to answer telephone calls can swell the guest’s appreciation of Statler Service—and increase Statler’s appreciation of her. A waiter who says “Pell Mell” when the guest says “Pell Mell,” and “Paul Maul” when the guest says “Paul Maul” can make the guest feel he himself was right—and makes us think the waiter is all right.

It is the total of many such little things that prompts guests to say later, “I stopped at the Statler” rather than to yawn, “I put up at a hotel last night.”

Don’t Try To Pick’em!

A man may wear a red necktie with a green shirt and still be a gentleman.  The unpretentious man with the old suitcase may be rich as Croesus.

The stranger in cowhide boots and ten gallon hat may be the president of a railroad. You cannot afford to be superior or impolite to any guest—they’re all important, and they’re all paying for the same service. Old and new customers

New customers are just as important as the old customers you recognize.  Remember that each new customer is an old customer in the making.  Do your part to give him the desire to come back to us bringing his family and friends.

Satisfied guests

Statler guests should be made to feel that we want to give them more sincere service for their money than they ever before received at any hotel.  The employee who helps to foster this feeling in our guests is never out of a job, nor does he escape the eyes of his department head or the manager.  Make the guests feel the fine good-fellowship of the hotel; the “No-trouble-to-help-you” spirit.  Never be perky, pungent or fresh.  Remember the guest pays your salary.

No place for arguments

Once in a great while, a misguided employee disagrees with a guest on some question of facts, He maintains that the meat is well done- when the guest says it isn’t.  Or that THIS sauce was ordered when the guest says the other.  Or that the bellman did go up to the room.  Either way be correct as to facts.

But—and these are definite instructions.  No employer of these hotels has the privilege of arguing any point with a guest.  He must adjust the matter at once to the guest’s satisfaction, or call his superior to adjust it.

Wrangling has no place in a Statler hotel.

Yardsticks of Service

Statler Service, beginning in Buffalo, can now be obtained in seven other great American cities and has become synonymous with good service—the yardstick of hotel service everywhere.  We want these words, Statler Service, to mean even more than that.  We hope to make them mean not only good service but the best service, always.  You can help us to realize this hope.  Your opportunity with the Statler organization will be measured by your ability to make that part of Statler Service for which you are responsible the tops of its kind to be found in any hotel, anywhere.

What About Tipping?

The guest chooses a certain hotel because he expects to receive quick and cheerful service.  Now and then an employee— he may be a waiter, barber, bellman, bootblack or anyone of a dozen others—adds a bit of his own personality to his service.  He shows a little more intelligence, initiative, discernment than anticipated and is pleased.  He feels the employee has given him something extra and unexpected and he wants to show his appreciation by paying something for it.  He tips.

It is the business of any good hotel to serve the public.  It is the declared purpose of Statler hotels to please the public better than any other hotel.

Now, a first-class hotel cannot be maintained on a tipless basis, because a certain percentage of its guest will tip, in spite of all rules.

So we say to our patrons:

Guests do not have to tip at a Statler hotel to get courteous, polite, attentive service.  We guarantee to our guests, who do not wish to tip, everything—EVERYTHING— the way of attention and courtesy that the tipper gets.

Finally, we say to our patrons:

Please do not tip unless you feel like it.  If you do tip, let it be because of a genuine desire to do so, not merely to conform with what someone else does.

A Statler employees who is thoughtful enough to merit tips should be prepared to render a like service whether he is tipped or not—and to say “thank you” if he receives a tip.

Any Statler employee who fails to give topflight service without a tip, or who fails to thank the guest who does tip him, falls short of the Statler standard.  We are grateful to any guest who reports such a case to us.

We do not deal summarily with our employees, but tip—grafters have no future here. Statler Success Didn’t Just Happen

The Statlers are successful hotels.  Why?  Because men and women of good judgment from all parts of the world make the Statler their home—when away from home.  Why?

Because every waiter, bellman, clerk, the chef and the manager, himself, is working all the time to make them feel at home.

Each member of the organization is valuable to us only in direct proportion to his contribution toward that end.

Money Saved, More Service— Better Jobs

The department head who can so improve the system of his division to save time or labor can make more money for the Statler—and more for himself.  Every dollar saved in any department means we can sell more service for the same price.  Every item of extra courtesy makes for a more contented guest and every contented guest makes for a better, bigger Statler.  And this means better, bigger jobs.

Particularly To Our Guests

In the interest of improving our opportunity to give our guests the utmost in hotel service, we should like to include in this booklet some excerpts from another publication of ours, Tips For Travelers, in the following paragraphs, we repeat some of the questions guests ask us most frequently—and give the answers.

1.  Why Make Reservations In Advance?

It is still very difficult in many cities to secure a hotel room without advance notice.  You take a chance when you travel without reservations, as the hotel may be filled by travelers who took the trouble to make a reservation.  Sending a wire just before you leave home does not give us sufficient time to tell you that a room can be reserved.  The wise traveler makes his reservation as far in advance as possible. 2.  Why Can’t I Get A Hotel Room?

Any hotel manager would much rather give you a room than tell you why he can’t.  Many travelers think that hotel managers hold out rooms.   This is not so.  Many people think that knowing someone will produce a room.  Short-sighted, indeed, would be the hotel man who reserved a room because someone knew someone, at the expense of the traveler who didn’t know someone.

There are many times when a hotel is filled to the point where it cannot accommodate a single additional guest.

If two men from the same company occupy a room with twin beds, that means an extra room for someone else.  That someone may be you on your next trip.

3.  Why Do Hotels Book Conventions?

Sometimes when people can’t get accommodations in a hotel and they find a convention in the hotel, they ask, “Why do you book conventions?” Even when Statler is host to a convention, we reserve a substantial proportion of rooms for non-convention guests.  But we do book conventions:

Because they fulfill a necessary function in the American way of doing things—industries, associations, organizations hold meetings to exchange information, develop programs, plan courses of action;

Because conventions stimulate business in the cities where they are held, benefiting merchants, restaurateurs, theaters, transportation companies and others as well as hotels; Because it is our business and our duty to do the best job we can in accommodating all travelers and visitors.

Incidentally, without this group business now and then, the fine metropolitan hotels of today would not have been possible.  It takes more than day-to-day patronage of individual travelers to support the facilities that distinguish the modern American big-city hotel.

4.  Why Can I Walk Into Another Hotel and Get a Room?

Our competitor reaches a point where he can not take any more reservations.  So do we.  If every guest who had a reservation picked it up, and if every guest left on the day he promised, there would be no problem.

Unfortunately, some guessing is involved.  We have to guess how many guests will change their plans and not tell us.  We have to guess how many of our customers will fail to check out.  We have to guess whether the planes will fly or not.  Weathered-in planes mean weathered-in guests who may not leave.  If we guess low, we have too many reservations.  If we guess high, we have vacant rooms which could have been used by persons who wanted reservations.  Our competitor must also guess.  Maybe he guessed high on that day.  That’s how you got the room. 5.  Why Should I Cancel If My Plans Change?

A hotel can accept only so many reservations.  If your reservation has been accepted and your plans change, it helps us if you notify us.  If you do not, it means that some other traveler must be told that he cannot have a room.

6.  Why Do You Sometimes Keep Me Waiting For My Room?

We don’t like to but we can’t help it! Here’s why:  In many cities most guest arrive in the morning an most guests leave in the evening.  If the hotel was filled the night before, arriving guests must check their baggage and wait for a room to become vacant.  Incoming guests could be roomed much more promptly if those holding the rooms would release them early and check their baggage until the time of their departure.

Any Suggestions?

We have emphasized that Statler hotels pride themselves on their ability to please the discriminating guest— the one who says he is hard to please.  If the service you receive is not thoroughly satisfactory—and satisfying—in every detail, we want to know it so we can do something about it.

Our basic policy is built upon:

The recognition of your right to courteous, interested, helpful service from every Statler employee, with satisfaction guaranteed—even if it becomes necessary for you to refer the transaction to the Executive Offices in Hotel Statler, New York 1, N.Y.

We would welcome, too, any suggestions you may have as to how we can improve our way of running a hotel.  Many of the best-liked Statler innovations resulted from ideas expressed by our guests.  If something comes to your mind, please let us know! Your suggestions will help us to accomplish that goal toward which we are always striving—the very best in hotel service.

Statler Employee Pledge

  1. To treat our patrons and fellow employees in an interested, helpful and gracious manner, as we would want to be treated if positions were reversed.
  2. To judge fairly— to know both sides before taking action.
  3. To learn and practice self-control.
  4. To keep our properties—buildings and equipment—in excellent condition at all times.
  5. To know our job and to become skillful in its performance.
  6. To acquire the habit of advance planning.
  7. To do our duties PROMPTLY.
  8. To satisfy all patrons or to take them to our superior. 

Hotels Statler Company, Inc.

The Statler Hotel Company was acquired by Hilton Hotels in 1954 for $111 million, merging Statler’s 10,400 rooms with Hiltons 16,200 rooms.  It was the greatest hotel merger and the largest private real estate transaction in history.

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