What a Hotel Manager Does

In 1940, Frank Case, author of “Tales of the Wayward Inn” wrote his second book “Do Not Disturb” (Frederick A. Stokes Company New York). Case was the owner and manager of New York’s Algonquin Hotel from 1904 to 1928.  He was renowned for initiating and nurturing the famous Algonquin Round Table which attracted the best known playrights, authors, actors, producers and journalists of the day. 

The book is a hotelman’s delight.  For example, Case describes one aspect of a hotel manager’s responsibilities:

Frequently when making my adieus to friends or customers at lunch by saying, “I have to leave you now, I must go to work,” the reply is, “Why, what do you do”? in a surprised tone.

Well, there is no answer to this, for if I started to tell some of the things a hotelkeeper does, I should be there yet.  For instance, supplies in addition to the things you see to eat or drink.  About thirty different kinds of paper not including writing paper.  Paper for telephone pads, payroll sheets, requisitions, wax paper for kitchens, other paper for bake shop, wrapping paper, white bond for bureau drawers an so on.  String-five kinds of twine, some for tying up roasts, some for porters, three kinds for upholsterer.  Paper for menus, three different kinds.  Paper wristlets for lamb chops.  That is just paper and string and there is lots more of that.

Four kinds of stuff for cleaning silver−burnishing soap, silver dip, silver polish and salsoda.  Soap many kinds, mops, brooms, and six kinds of brushes, furniture polish and wax, cleaning fluid, metal polish, liquid soap, lye and ammonia, wall washing powder.  Inks, pens and blotters. Pencils, carbons, ribbons, five different kinds, eight different bound books; glassware, an endless variety, specific sizes and particular quality and price.  Sheets, pillow cases, blankets, bed spreads, dimity covers, pillows, mattresses, seven kinds of towels, carpets, hangings, bath mats and then soap again, key tags, coat hangers, Venetian blinds, window shades, net curtains, chintz draperies, pieces of material to recover chairs and sofas, ash trays, luggage racks, all these constantly wearing out, constantly being renewed.  Uniforms, aprons, maids’ dresses, lamps, shades (very perishable and bought frequently), matches.  Sounds a little like Walt Whitman.  And the half has not been told nor have we so much as entered the domain of kitchen, restaurant, bar or engine-room.

While the hotelkeeper does not actually do all this detail buying, he must have a working knowledge of these things, be available for consultation and decisions, and invent ways and means of getting the dough to pay for them when the bills come in. — Frank Case, Owner, Algonquin Hotel (1904-1928)

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