César Of The Ritz
César Ritz
A real entrepreneur is behind the legendary hotel name

The Ritz-Carlton hotels have a reputation for elegance and luxury that was created over a century ago. Now, its amenity-rich rooms fully embrace the needs of the 21st century guest needing an iPod docking station, Internet access – cable or wireless, take your pick – and ample charging outlets.

That wasn’t the case in 1898, when the first Ritz opened its doors.

The name behind the brand is César Ritz, 13th and last child born to a farming family in Niederwald, Switzerland in 1850. Ritz’s mother recognized her son’s creativity and always considered him special.

And he was, even if his first patron didn’t think so. His first meaningful job was as an apprentice waiter at the Hotel Couronne et Poste in Brig, Switzerland, where he was told “You will never become a real hotelier.”

In 1867, the Paris World Exhibition lured the 17-year-old away from Brig. Ritz landed a succession of jobs in the City of Lights. At the same time, he also began developing a reputation for taste, elegance and competence.

Ritz’s time spent in Paris proved important for another reason. He met the inspired chef Auguste Escoffier, creator of (among other culinary delights) the peach melba. Escoffier became a friend,   trusted advisor and close associate. The hotelier’s and chef’s  careers remained intertwined thereafter.

Early on, the pair accepted a hospitality challenge when the director of the National Hotel in Lucerne appealed to Ritz. “My beautiful house is in trouble,” he said. “You will save it.”

He did. With Escoffier’s steady assistance, Ritz transformed the National into a beautiful luxury hotel where guests were the center of attention.

After “saving” the National, César Ritz’s unfailing sense for how best to please wealthy, sophisticated guests earned him the top position in a succession of luxury hotels including the Grand in Rome, the first in the world to have a bathroom in every room.

Wherever he worked, Ritz continued to refine his vision of elegance, service and, above all, focused attention to guests’ needs. By his late 30s, he was a famous hotelier, never mind his first patron’s opinion of his abilities.

In 1898 César Ritz opened his first eponymous hotel in Paris with Auguste Escoffier’s unfailing assistance.

The Hôtel Ritz quickly drew royalty, politicians, singers and other high-profile guests to its luxurious rooms. The Ritz London, which opened in 1906, rose to even greater heights of opulence in furnishings and cuisine.

The focused attention to guests included a new wrinkle: a special entry-way bell ensured that the doorman could alert staff to the arrival of royalty.


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