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Trained at the Ivor Spencer Butler School, Julius entered private service over thirty years ago. He has been responsible for arranging numerous functions globally and has had the honour of personally serving over 20 Heads of State. Julius offers consulting services to households on how to set up and run their residences, giving staff polish and confidence.


2 May 2024


Over the course of my career as a butler, I have been asked numerous times about the difference between a butler and a waiter. While it seems obvious to me, it does seem that most people don’t know. 

I think this is because the term ‘butler’ has been so dumbed down over the last twenty years. Hotels seeking more stars to their names have come up with many so-called butler services, for example upgrading the room-service waiters to be referred to as grander-sounding ‘butlers’, or providing spa butlers – what ever that is! I have even heard of one grand institution asking if a guest would like the ‘pillow butler’ to bring an array beautifully puffed-up support, just in case the ones provided are deemed inadequate. 

So what is the key difference between a waiter and butler? A butler is someone who works predominantly in a private home or establishment of a principal and his family. They spend their time managing the home, and attending to the needs and requests of the family and their guests

A waiter, however, works in a commercial environment attending to the needs of a paying customer. The ‘butler services’ in hotels – like the ones I previously mentioned – are therefore carried out by waiters, not butlers. 

In my mind, however, the real difference is not just about the people who are served. It goes much deeper, and lies in the desire to serve (and I don’t mean to sound too corny when I say that). A true butler, when on duty, wears his three piece suit and polished shoes with pleasure and pride, and it enables them to carry out their duties. A thorough knowledge of etiquette is also essential – I like to think proper butlers know what is just so.  

I am not for a minute trying to downplay the wonderful work of waiters, but next time you have that weekend break or stay at that luxury resort and the hotel butler comes to offer you their service, just ask yourself – is this really a butler or a waiter?

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