Paris: Hotel Ritz: 320 staff accepted severance package HOTELS

Paris: Hotel Ritz: 320 staff accepted severance package

( words)

By Andreas Augustin

With the charm of an old lady, fitted with aging elevators and the snobberies of soon-to-retire staff, The Ritz in Paris is one of the Select members of The Most Famous Hotels in the World. It closes today for a two-year face-lift. The idea is to bring the city's best known luxury hotel into the 21st century and keep its clientele coming back in an ever more competitive market. The renovation comes after the five-star hotel, which neighbors the famed jewelers of Paris' Place Vendome but has not had a refit since 1979, failed to win France's coveted "palace" designation marking a top luxury destination.

The Ritz was conceived by César Ritz, who was in charge of the management of legendary hotels such as The Savoy in London, the Frankfurter Hof in Frankfurt and the Grand Hotel in Rome, to name but a few. It became the hotel of choice of Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel and it was the place where princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed, dined in 1997 before their fatal car crash. Ever since nothing special happened and the hotel lost its sex-appeal. The 140-million-euro ($A160-million) refurbishment will last until mid 2014, equipping the Ritz with a new garden restaurant and fitting out its 160 rooms with "the latest technology". All the bedrooms will be redecorated in their traditional trademark tones of pink, almond green, yellow and sky blue.
For industry insiders, it was high time for the face-lift. 'It was a waste to see a hotel with such a location, with such a history, in a state like this," said Vanguelis Panayotis, head of development at the MKG Group hospitality consultancy. To justify this kind of price, you really have to offer quality on a par with the competition." Because there will still be clients who would not accept any longer cables hanging down in full view from flat screen televisions."

In its heydays The Ritz was the place where legendary barkeeper Frank of the Ritz served Martinis to his clientele, among them Berry Wall, the 'best-dressed American'. Suicide US writer and self confessed killer (never accused as a war criminal) Ernest Hemingway is among the rather inglorious bastards who claime that they had stayed at The Ritz. We have reasons to hope that with the dusting up of the interior, some disreputable myth surrounding the hotel will also receive a professional spring cleaning.

The Bristol and Meurice hotels have already had face-lifts, the Plaza-Athenee is working on an extension, and the Royal Monceau underwent a full refurbishment under its new Qatari ownership from 2008 to 2010. The nearby Crillon, is closing for renovations in the autumn.

Founded in 1898 by Cesar Ritz after being dismissed from The Savoy London 'for, among other serious reasons, gross negligence and breaches of duty and mismanagement', the Ritz is home to L'Espadon restaurant, holder of two Michelin stars, and the Ritz-Escoffier cooking school. Like in most Famous Hotels in the World, L'Espadon didn't make it into the 2012 list of the top 100 restaurants in the world. For closing night on Tuesday, chef Michel Roth has put on a special 240-euro menu with foie gras, blue lobster in raspberry vinaigrette with caviar and the Ritz's signature Peach Melba (developed at The Savoy in London by chef Escoffier for singer Nelly Melba) among the delicacies on the cards. That didn't stop Ritz' faithful clientele to flock to the hotel, it was booked out for Monday night, mostly to regulars, for prices ranging from 850 to 10,000 euros for the Coco Chanel suite. Sobbing, one declared: "It is all over now, how can they change the good old Ritz?"

A renovation process like this is of course a great opportunity to get rid of a number of long serving staff with well earned benefits such as dismissal payments and pensions. In France, these payments can reach a multiple of the yearly income. The hotel was able to dismiss 320 of its 460 employees by offering them a severance package. 140 will retire until mid of 2014, some of them will be accepted back. It's an employer's market. Star chef Roth will keep working for the Ritz as an ambassador, promoting it to rich clients in Asia and around the world. Hopefully he gets the message across.

Sourcs: AFP | fhpress

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