The Modest Mr Ritz or: Taking over the Frankfurter Hof
An excerpt from our book
THIS HERR RITZ
‘Please forgive me for telling you my honest opinion, gentlemen.’
César Ritz looked into the eyes of the directors who sat opposite him. He saw the men whose hotel he was going to rent, saw the interest. He recognised that kind of look. It was curiosity. Ritz was considered an expert. He was attuned to difficult situations. What people usually expected from him at that point was to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
‘You certainly have the most delightful restaurant,’ he paused; ‘... north of the Alps. This hall, the 32 columns – congratulations, indeed! And this winter garden is just wonderful.’
Sonnemann nodded his head. Oh, so this was a honey-dripper. That much he knew himself.
‘Unfortunately it looks like a morgue.’
‘I beg your pardon, Sir?’
Sonnemann and Ladenburg must have judged him wrongly. The small man didn’t speak too clearly with his heavy Swiss accent. He didn’t speak German very well either.
‘I can see that in London now. La même chose, the same story, you understand? The ladies love to go out; they love to show off their dresses. They want to be seen. It’s a new era. The restaurant needs to be near the street. With large windows!’
‘In the restaurant?’
Sonnemann thought that the man was joking.
‘And these rooms! Only a handful of bathtubs! This needs to be changed. Everything is very elegant here, but we are not living in 1870 any longer,’ continued Ritz, shaking his head.
César Ritz was not overly friendly with the directors of the Frankfurter Hof. But he was right. In 1892 the hotel was more than 15 years old. It required investment. Electric power and speaking tubes were not enough. Guests wanted luxury.
‘At the Savoy each suite is equipped with a bathroom. One year ago I opened up the Grand Hotel in Rome. There is electric lighting everywhere. And each room, EACH ROOM has its own bath.’
‘But isn’t this a bit excessive?’
‘No, not at all! The next Grand Hotel that might open up around the corner (he casually pointed his right hand into that direction) will have it. And then, you will be only the number two – if at all!’
‘And, by the way – your electric light.’
On March 1, 1895 the Frankfurter Hof was leased to a consortium consisting of César Ritz, Otto Kah from Baden-Baden and the brothers Otto and Ferdinand Hillengass. The Hotel Aktiengesellschaft corporation demanded an adequate rent and hoped to at least make a good return on it. The big-mouthed Swiss must now show what he was able to do.
Ritz did not disappoint them.
From our book Frankfurter Hof - available here