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A synonym for luxury

Interview with Sal Gowili, General Manager at The Ritz London

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European Business: Mr Gowili, The Ritz in London is famous for its luxury and splendid catering services. It is also one of London’s oldest first-class hotels having first opened in 1906. How do you maintain the same high standards today and do you have a motto that you live by?

Sal Gowili: We have an incredibly passionate team at The Ritz, dedicated to delivering excellence to all of our guests. We are constantly evolving in order to ensure that we continue to deliver the very best experience to our clients and to remain relevant. This is evident in all departments of the hotel – for example in the kitchen, under the guidance of our Executive Chef John Williams MBE, the brigade is always experimenting with new techniques and introducing new dishes to the menu in our Michelin-starred Ritz Restaurant and new pastries to the world-famous Afternoon Tea served in the Palm Court using fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Our Pastry Chef Lewis Wilson has recently created an afternoon tea pasty piping the cream using a record player, which is very innovative! Our Housekeeping team try to add a sprinkle of Ritz magic to every guests’ stay with personalised touches – our Head Housekeeper, for example, makes a spray to mist the sheets, using invigorating citrus essential oils in the morning, and calming lavender in the evening, to enhance sleep.

We are also constantly investing in the product itself. This year, we are very proud to have opened Ritz London Cigars, a luxury cigar shop and sampling lounge, as well as launched Hiro Miyoshi at The Ritz London, a brand-new hairdressing salon. In June this year, we took delivery of the latest model, 8th generation, Rolls-Royce Phantom direct from the production line where it was custom crafted to the hotel’s design, and is now available for hire as an exclusive service to our guests.

European Business: In 2002 your hotel received a Royal Warrant for Banqueting and Catering Services which was awarded by His Royal Highness Charles Prince of Wales. So you are now the first and only hotel to have been honoured with this prestigious award. What special requirements need to be met to receive such an award and what needs to be considered when catering for the royal family?

Sal Gowili: Our Royal Warrant is the seal of approval from HRH The Prince of Wales. We are very proud to have been the first hotel in the world to be awarded a Royal Warrant for the hotel’s services to catering and banqueting. We display the warrant in the Lobby above the Hall Porter’s desk. As you say, we are the only hotel in the world to have received this accolade and it’s a testament to the team’s ongoing commitment to delivering the very best, all of the time, to every guest. 

European Business: Over the years you have hosted many famous guests from Charlie Chaplin and Roger Moore to Paul Getty and many more. What was the most unusual request you have had from a guest and how did you fulfil their wishes?

Sal Gowili: Our Head Concierge Michael de Cozar, who this year completes his 45th year of service at The Ritz, tells a wonderful story of how he once delivered sea water to a guest for their bath on Christmas day, as it was the first year that they hadn’t been able to swim in the sea that Christmas!

European Business: The Ritz London was awarded a Michelin star in October 2016. What does this award mean to you and what makes your catering so special?

Sal Gowili: Achieving the Michelin star was an incredibly special moment in the culinary history of the hotel, and is a testament to the passion and dedication of our Executive Chef John Williams, MBE, as well as our Front of House team who are experts in technical service and really complete the theatrical experience of dining in our beautiful dining room. At The Ritz we have one brigade of chefs who look after not only the Restaurant, but also the Palm Court, the 18th century Private Dining Rooms, the menu for the Rivoli Bar as well as room service, and so it’s quite an achievement!

European Business: Looking into the future, what do you do in terms of sustainability and your green footprint?

Sal Gowili: At The Ritz we understand that the hotel’s day-to-day operations have an impact on the environment and we recognise our social responsibility. We have a dedicated “Green Committee” made up of colleagues from different departments in the hotel who are committed to ensuring that we contribute to the future well-being of the environment and operate sustainably (as well as to the conservation of the iconic Grade II listed building). Last year for example, we introduced three colonies of bees onto our roof, in response to the declining honeybee population in the UK, who are essential to the ecosystem of our planet as pollinators. The hives, named after our signature suites(!), are made from sustainable pine wood. We’ve also planted a roof garden with Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon verbena, Pansies, Violas, Chives, which are used by the Chefs in the kitchen. Other initiatives include recycling all of the corks from the wine and Champagne bottles opened at the hotel and all of the used candles. Our Housekeeping department has developed a close partnership with Clean Conscience, an innovative charity that recovers partly used soap and guest toiletries. They manually sort, sterilise and reprocess soaps and toiletries and distribute them globally to people suffering from life threatening diseases, that are preventable by the simple process of hand washing with soap. As a hotel we’ve been awarded the Gold certification from Green Tourism, an independent sustainable programme, and so I think we are certainly making positive steps in the right direction.