The History and Evolution of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company

The Ritz Carlton Hotel was the dream of Swiss hotelier Céasar Ritz back in the late nineteenth century. Ritz realized his dream and began opening luxury hotels throughout Europe. The idea of luxury hotels was a new realization for the European elite. Ritz’s elegant hotels featured the finest of amenities, the most attentive and polished staff, the best of service and access to the finest restaurants. From César Ritz’s dream, The Ritz Carlton Hotel’s foundation was laid. The first Ritz Carlton Hotels included the Ritz in Paris and the Carlton in London. Although many branches of the refined hotel were opened, the brand was purchased more than a few times leading to further international expansion. Today, The Ritz Carlton Hotel brand maintains its rigorous standards of providing its guests with a high class experience catering to them and making their stay at The Ritz Carlton the most enjoyable of experiences. Today, The Ritz Carlton Hotel brand is owned by Marriott International. There are 91 hotels and resorts throughout 30 countries and territories.

Here is how The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company evolved to become the leading luxury hotel chain in the world.

The Early Twentieth Century

The first Ritz Carlton hotels were started by Swiss hotelier César Ritz. The peasant boy would become the world’s leading luxury hotelier in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. As a boy, he apprenticed as at a Swiss hotel as a sommelier but was dismissed with his patron telling him he’d never make it in the hotel business. During the 1870’s Ritz worked as a waiter and hotel manager in Paris where he learned the refined skills necessary for establishing luxury accommodations. During the 1890’s, Ritz established several luxury hotels throughout Europe.

César Ritz joined forces with the wealthy South American Alfred Beit and formed the Ritz Hotel syndicate in 1896 with the establishment of the Hôtel Ritz in the Place Vendome. Next came the Carlton Hotel in London. Auguste Escoffier, Ritz’s chef, began opening a la carte restaurants called the Ritz Carlton aboard ocean liners which operated until World War I.

In the meantime Albert Keller established The Ritz Carlton Investing Company which franchised the Ritz Carlton name and opened hotels in the United States. The first Ritz Carlton Company hotel was opened at 46th Street and Madison Avenue in New York City with Chef Louis Diat. The American franchises continued to expand through the early 1900’s to include locations in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. In 1912, the Ritz Carlton Montreal opened. Other Ritz Carlton’s included Boston and Boca Raton locations. By the early 1920’s there were 15 Ritz Carlton Hotels in the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Argentina.

The Ritz Carlton Boston

The Great Depression wasn’t the right time for luxury hotels to move forward. By 1940 only the Boston Ritz Carlton Hotel was left of Albert Keller’s United States venture. The hotel continues to embody the luxurious and elegant standards of The Ritz Carlton in guest entertainment including service, dining and facilities which are standard among all Ritz Carlton Hotel’s today. Even in its early days, the Boston hotel established private baths in guest rooms and light colored fabrics that were always crisp and clean. Service staff were dressed in formal black tie, morning suits and crisp uniforms. Guests of the hotel could enjoy smaller lobbies in which to socialize. Lobbies were always adorned with fresh flowers. Diners could enjoy gourmet cuisine served a la carte. Today, The Ritz Carlton Hotel Boston maintains its standards. The historic hotel overlooks the Boston Common and the cities many historic locations. Today the hotel has modern updates and is joined by the Equinox Sports Club and Spa. Guests of The Ritz Carlton Boston can enjoy cocktails at the classic Avery Bar.

Declining Years

Following the Great Depression, The Ritz Carlton noted a sharp decline. The Ritz Carlton Philadelphia was the first to go when it was converted into a building for offices. The Atlantic City location was sold out in the 1940’s, while the Ritz Carlton New York’s building was demolished in 1951. The Ritz Carlton Boston was the one that stuck it out despite being sold by the Wyner family during the 1960’s. The Ritz Carlton Boston remains much the same as it was when it began in the 1960’s and has been able to maintain its standards ever since.

Gerald F. Blakely Jr.

During the 1970’s a company by the name of Cabot, Cabot & Forbes were able to get The Ritz Carlton name back to where it belonged. The company was headed by Gerald F. Blakeley Jr. who obtained the rights to The Ritz Carlton name in America during the 1960’s. Later, in 1978, Blakely managed to get privileges to The Ritz Carlton trademark and helped bring the brand back to life in the United States. The Ritz Carlton Chicago opened at Water Tower Place in 1975 and joined with The Four Seasons chain. Blakely licensed The Ritz Carlton name for two hotels John B. Coleman was renovating, one in New York City and one in Washington DC. The hotels opened in 1982.

The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company

As The Ritz Carlton was once again making a comeback, it became corporate owned which launched the hotel brand back into a franchise that would grow globally. George Blakely Jr. sold The Ritz Carlton Boston and the trademark for The Ritz Carlton to Atlanta developer William B. Johnson in 1983. The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company was formed that year. Johnson worked with developers including hotelier Horst Schulze. The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company got the rights to The Ritz Carlton name internationally in 2018. The only exceptions were The Ritz Carlton Paris, Chicago and Montreal due to other corporate interests in those hotels.

The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, LLC was formed in 1983. Colgate Holmes led the way to forming the company that manages the international luxury hotel chain today. Holmes was the original president of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, LLC. He founded the company with a group of men including Herve Humler, Joe Freni, Horst Schulze and Ed Staros. The company quickly began the hotel’s expansion in the United States. By 1985 five Ritz Carlton Hotels were opened across America. These included locations in Atlanta, Naples, Buckhead and Laguna. The expansion was quick. There were 23 Ritz Carlton Hotels by 1992. Each one followed the same standards to provide the most luxurious stay for every guest. That same year, the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company was awarded the prestigious Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. The company expanded internationally the following year. The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong opened in Asia in 1993.

The successful and rapid expansion of the luxury hotel chain, the Ritz Carlton, gained a lot of attention from the hospitality industry. With its classic brand, bold history, and continued success, The Ritz Carlton brand was made an offer of purchase just as it was eighty years before. Marriott International purchased a large portion of interest in The Ritz Carlton Brand in 1998. Under the leadership of Marriott International, The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company continued its expansion in the United States and throughout the world. The first Washington DC Ritz Carlton opened in the United State’s capital in 2000. Another resort that came under the “Destination Club property” classification was opened the following year in Aspen Highlands, Colorado. The Company opened the first Ritz Carlton Reserve property in Phulay Bay, Krabi, Thailand in 2008. The resort offers guests a private experience in a peaceful setting.

The Ritz Carlton Logo

The iconic Lion and the Crown logo lets people know that they are truly in the most refined hotel in the world. The Ritz Carlton Hotel logo was designed by Cesar Ritz back in the late twentieth century when Ritz was creating the iconic brand. The logo features a combination of the crown which represents the British royal seal, and the lion, which represents the brand’s financial backer. The multiple Ritz Carlton Hotel’s that were opened during the early twentieth century carried slightly different versions of the original logo at each location. In Europe, the London Ritz Carlton had the British royal seal on it while Paris’ location had the Lion. Future Ritz Carlton’s chose any number of forms of the combination of mottos. The logo defines noble bearing, but the owners of The Ritz Carlton Boston decided the logo was not noble enough to represent the brand’s regal character. In 1965 Cabot, Cabot and Forbes decided to tweak the logo embedded into the history of The Ritz Carlton Boston since 1927. With the approval of the Wyner Estate heirs, The Ritz Carlton Hotel’s logo was altered and would become the standard logo for all of the world’s Ritz Carlton Hotels today. The majestic lion’s head perched upon the royal crown reflects the importance of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company today. The logo is majestic, powerful, elegant, royal, and it reflects the importance of luxury standards for each guest of the hotel.

The Ritz Carlton Awards

The renowned Zagat Guide to Restaurants has consistently awarded The Ritz Carlton Hotel in its top spots for its hotels, service and dining. The Ritz Carlton Hotel won the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in 1992 and 1999. It is the only hotel to win the award twice. Horst Schulze, the company’s president, has been recognized with the World Ishikawa Medal. The COO and President was recognized for his contributions to the “Quality Movement”. The Ritz Carlton Company was requested by the Malcolm Baldridge committee to share its methods to apply quality to service. The Ritz Carlton Company did more than this. The Company established a Leadership Center and a Learning Institute to help others learn how to provide top quality service in the hotelier and resort industry. Ritz Carlton leader and executive (emeritus) Leonardo Inghilleri helped to create the program. The Ritz Carlton Learning Institute and Leadership Center works with international company executives to train them on the Ritz Carlton’s principles of service.

The Ritz Carlton in Pop Culture

The distinguished Ritz Carlton Hotel has been featured in popular culture. It was used in E.B. White’s novel “The Trumpet and the Swan” as the place were the trumpeter swan stayed in Boston. It was featured in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”. Who can forget the reference in Irving Berlin’s song “Puttin’ On the Ritz”? Other references to The Ritz Carlton and its luxury include the television shows “Jane the Virgin” and”Boardwalk Empire”. It’s also alluded to in the Kenneth Oppel novel Skybreaker. The 2003 movie “American Wedding” filmed at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, California. Tragically INX musician Michael Hutchence was found dead in The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Double Bay, Sydney, Australia in 1997.

The Ritz Carlton Today

Longtime Ritz Carlton COO, Horst Schulze stepped down from his post in 2001. Simon Cooper joined The Ritz Carlton as its President and COO. Cooper’s goals were to expand the franchise of luxury hotels and create product diversification. As a result, The Ritz Carlton added several distinctions to some of its hotels including The Ritz Carlton Residences and The Ritz Carlton Destination Club. The Residences provides private residential units in some locations while the Destination Club offers fractional ownership in residences included under the title. In 2001 The Ritz Carlton also partnered with Italian jeweler and luxury goods brand, Bulgari. The new hotel franchise is called BVLGARI and has locations including Montreal, Canada, Madrid, Spain, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Following Simon Cooper’s successful expansion of locations and brand of The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Herve Humler came on board of the company in August 2010. As the new president and COO of The Ritz Carlton, Humler, one of the original founders of The Ritz Carlton Company in 1983, continued to make the brand a leader internationally. His achievements in global growth include the highest hotel in the world, The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Hong Kong which opened in 2011, and the 2015 opening of The Ritz Carlton Macau. The East Asian territory is designed to resemble a golden palace. Today The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company has a major presence in the world. Of its 91 locations, many stand out. These include locations in Moscow, Mumbai, Jararta, Kasakstan, Bangalor, Israel and Kuala Lampor to name a few.


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