What We Can Learn About Excellence From This Award-Winning Filipino Hotel Butler

Sofitel's executive floor butler Robert Viana shares lessons learned from his years in the hospitality industry.

Robert Viana took up nursing in college, and had initially planned to go down that path up until he fell in love with the hotel industry. Little did he know back then that this decision would help him leave a lasting mark in the minds and hearts of many.

He went from department to department at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila and quickly rose through the ranks before eventually becoming a butler permanently.

As hotel butler, Viana looks after each guest’s personal needs, not just hotel related, but everything that would make their lives more pleasant.

He says, “When they’re inside the hotel, prior to arrival, we see to it that most of their preferences are already in place. If ever they have requests, we prepare them right away so when they arrive, they're all ready and they don’t have to wait for them. With food and beverages, if they have any restrictions, we coordinate with the chefs. With their clothes, for example if they have a request for a suit to be pressed, we’re the one who sends it to laundry. Personally, we bring it down.”


This year marks the 25 years since he entered hospitality and he celebrates in the way of an award from the Hotelier Awards Asia 2018. In June, Viana received the honor of Concierge Hotelier of the Year by besting finalists from Singapore and Thailand. He and Sofitel’s PR Director Yasmine Hidalgo weretwo of the four Filipinos to be awarded.

Here’s what we can learn from the award-winning hotel butler.

Never stop until a task is done.

“I had one VIP who requested for a shisha in the middle of the night,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, Sofitel’s shisha was broken at the time, so we had to go out around 12:30 a.m. and look for a shisha.” Luckily, there are a number of bars around Sofitel, and Viana found exactly what the guest needed. He follows this philosophy with every guest that he attends to: “Do anything that you can do as much as possible for a guest or VIP.”

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Try to be two, three to four steps ahead of a situation.

Viana always makes sure to put himself in his guest’s shoes. “If I were this guest, I ask myself, what would I need?” he says. Viana always tries to be two, three to four steps ahead of a situation and it’s greatly helped him excel in what he does.

Always put passion into everything.

As he celebrates 25 years in the industry, Viana continues to be passionate about his job. “I always tell the new hoteliers, put passion in what you’re doing. If you just come to work and do a regular routine, you get stuck in a box. If you put passion in what you’re doing, it’s just not for our guests and for ourselves, it also greatly benefits the hotel. So, always put passion into everything.”

Be honest.

“If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be honest in all that you do. If you commit a mistake, feel free and don’t hesitate to admit cause if you don’t it’ll create a domino effect and that’s not good.” Because of this attitude, Viana’s superiors count on him to fix his own mistakes. “Every time I make a mistake, my managers know that I’ll have a solution for it,” he says.

Reward sometimes requires some sacrifices.

When asked what his most memorable experience has been, he says, “For me, everything is memorable—even my sacrifices.” Viana recounts how one time, a visiting VIP requested for his service for over a month straight. “I stayed at the hotel for 28 days straight because the VIP requested that only I serve him and his family. Even though I worked straight for 28 days, it was worth it because they were very thankful in the end.”


He continues, “When they checked out, I walked them out and I introduced them to our hotel executive committee. Then, the general manager took over and walked him out to his car, while I stayed inside. I thought our guest had left something behind in his room because he started looking around. My general manager called me over, and when I approached I asked the guest if he had forgotten anything in his room. He said, 'I was looking for you because I haven’t even hugged you yet.' In front of everyone, his entourage, and my bosses, he hugged me and thanked me for my service. So that was very memorable for me.”

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About The Author
Paolo Chua
Associate Style Editor
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor at Esquire Philippines, where he writes about fashion and grooming. Before joining Esquire Philippines, he was a writer at Town & Country Philippines.
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