BACKGROUND TO THE FORMATION OF THE SAVOY GASTRONOMES
The Aim of the Amicale is To foster the spirit of The Savoy Reception
To put this aim into context it is necessary to understand the background of the functioning of the Reception Office in earlier years. This department of the hotel had manual control over every arrival, departure and room allocation of the 526 rooms at The Savoy. It was often the final department that aspiring hoteliers reached as part of their management training, having been through many other stages to reach this pinnacle. The daytime dress code was very formal. Stiff collars, subdued ties, waistcoats, tailcoats and pinstriped trousers, black lace up shoes and black socks. At 4.30 pm when the evening brigade arrived it was Black Tie, dinner jacket, with the two Night Managers wearing the same when they arrived at 11.30 pm. Those on the late brigade often met up in Southampton Street, just across the road, for a cup of tea from a small mobile tea stall and if the evening had been personally financially rewarding, a bacon sandwich. Tips were pooled by the whole brigade and divided out at the end of the week on a points system. Brigades comprised of three or four young men who stayed in the department for at least a year; there was a very defined hierarchy with the “lowest” entrant stuck for hours “under the stairs” sharpening pencils or answering the very busy telephones. The Chef de Brigade was the highest rank. The Reception manager, his assistant, secretary and booking clerk were upstairs overlooking the front hall. Only for very important visitors did they come downstairs. It was their role to annually fill the hotel and pre-allocate rooms and suites. The receptionists downstairs tinkered with the allocation made upstairs at their peril. However, great discretion was needed to satisfy every whim and expectation. By dressing up in such formal attire young men, and later women, felt that, at least in appearance, they could control the world. At that time the hotel had two very different, although conjoined, buildings. The least desirable accommodation was in the Court side, overlooking the front entrance. The more desirable with beautiful suites was overlooking the River Thames. Clearly guests who booked the hotel without having stayed before were not always well pleased to find themselves in a room overlooking an inside courtyard. The major support for the Reception office came in the form of an excellent well maintained room called Card Index. This office, with at least three employees maintained meticulous records of guests’ histories. On the receipt of each reservation, or reservation request, a junior from the Reception was sent scurrying off to Card Index to check the suitability of the applicant and their background, if any, from the thousands of filing cards kept in alphabetical order. These cards carried the date of birth, nationality, room number, room rate, length of stay, any particular requests whether they were a bad debt or even not to accept. The configuration of the rooms was made up by a variety of single rooms, twins, double bedded rooms, single and double suites. In addition, there were a number of very useful combinations of what were known as DSB i.e. a double and single room with an interconnecting bathroom. The large majority of the guests were individuals; very seldom was a group “allowed” to stay at the hotel and when such a small group did arrive, they had to arrive at the side Savoy Hill entrance so as not to be seen as a group in the Front hall – a lobby it was not.
It was a time of great camaraderie.
Julian L. Payne, August 2014
Founding Member of The Savoy Gastronomes
The Savoy Gastronomes Grace
"Lord, we who are fortunate to share the friendship of the Savoy Gastronomes ask your blessing on this meal. We are mindful of those who have neither food nor shelter and seek in our own ways to help. We give you thanks, Lord. Amen."