Secrets to An Immaculate Butler Service
A Conversation With Chief Butler of The St. Regis Singapore, Priscila Ochoa
In Kazuo Ishiguro’s third novel, “The Remains of the Day”, protagonist Stevens serves as head butler of Darlington Hall. While upholding attention and precision in his tasks, Stevens would never fail to maintain a professional poise, decorum, and to execute requests with competency. Do such attributes exist in real life? It is confirmed that these traits can be found on the renowned St. Regis Butlers.
St. Regis Butler Service — a signature element of the St. Regis experience — instilled by founder John Jacob Astor IV over a hundred years ago, is a legacy that is appreciated by many till today. The unpacking of luggage, shoe shining, garment pressing and the delivery of freshly brewed coffee or tea are some iconic services offered by the team. The St. Regis Butlers provides a tailored consideration in accordance to the unique preferences of guests, ensuring that they get to savour the rarest of all luxuries — time.
At St. Regis Singapore, butlers are brisk in attending to the needs of guests. Flawless service is kept in check, thanks to the attentiveness of Chief Butler Priscila Ochoa. With stellar experience from previous stints at St. Regis properties in Mexico City and Doha, Ochoa dedicates herself towards providing exceptional service that brightens the atmosphere, and leaves a hospitable impression on guests.
Guests of St. Regis Singapore arrive from different parts of the world. How do you make them feel that this is a home away from home?
The crucial element lies with addressing the preferences and needs of the guests. Frequent and repeat guests have shared these information from previous stays, so the St. Regis Butlers need to be on their toes and be consistent with their requests. As for first time guests, a pre-arrival form is to be filled prior to arrival. Through the details they’ve provided and engaging in conversations with the guests, we can acquire more information about their likes and dislikes, allowing us to better perform our jobs and address their needs.
What is a typical day like for a St. Regis Butler?
As Chief Butler, I do have more responsibilities and tasks on my plate. My day starts in looking at the day’s arrival list to see if specific amenities are needed for respective guests. Butlers are then dispatched to their designated floors or assigned tasks. I do have to oversee and ensure that the operations are smooth and done impeccably. If any of the butlers encounters any difficulties, I’ll be there to assist and guide them. We are a close-knit team and some requests can’t be executed if there isn’t any teamwork.
What is your impression of cosmopolitan Singapore after experiencing Doha and your hometown, Mexico City?
I’ll say that Singapore is a unique destination for its multi-cultural background and plethora of activities can be carried out due to its social construction. Singapore may be small, but its vibrancy compensates that. We do promote and help guests discover the magic of this city. A favourite spot of mine is the Marina Barrage, which is a popular recommendation to guests. The location has a good balance between the nature and urban elements of Singapore. You can take in the sights of the iconic urban business district skyline and stroll past the serene floral and fauna while making your way there.
What is your motivation in pushing forward and excelling this career that you’ve taken?
My motivation derives from the passion to provide impeccable service to people. If I were a guest at a hotel, I would like to be welcomed with a similar service too. My scope of work drives my passion, as I don’t see it as a job. I enjoy interacting with people and getting to know them better in a discrete manner. The passion comes from the heart and this encourages me to be at the top of my game.
What created the spark that made you pick this career route?
It started when I was seven, and was on a family holiday. I was at the concierge and rang the bell by accident. An executive on duty approached me and asked, “Do you want to work for us?” He explained that the job entails interactions with people, which got me interested. This memory has been etched in my mind since, and ignited a passion in me to be in his shoes.
Any memorable experience(s) in the course of your St. Regis Butler career so far?
During my tenure in Mexico City, there was a guest who was on an extended business trip. This particular guest was unfamiliar with the concept of tea, and he saw a butler carrying an afternoon tea tray. I explained that providing a beverage service to guests was one of our signature services. I started preparing a range of tea selections for him to try out, and catered to his preference of sweetness by introducing suitable blends that he might like, accompanied by his favourite snack — gummy bears.
Every night, I explained the origins of the various teas like Ceylon, Oolong, and Green tea. He responded with his thoughts and impressions for each tea variety. Before he ended his stay with us, I prepared a custom selection of his favourite teas as a farewell gift. After a year, he mailed a picture to the general manager to share that he enjoys tea now. I am grateful for this memorable episode.
Any advice for aspiring St. Regis’ Butlers-to-be?
I would say this is a fulfilling career. Beyond the routine tasks, soft skills like guest engagement and attention to details will result in an exceptional personal growth. They will eventually become an ambassador for St. Regis. Everything starts with a passion, and it’s our responsibility to keep that flame alive. This passion will shine through and leave a favourable impression on guests.