The Woman Behind the Hotels: Marie-Louise Ritz

31 August, 2021

The Woman Behind the Hotels: Marie-Louise Ritz

What we can learn from the world’s first female 5-star hotel manager   

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By Tanja Florenthal

4 min.
Marie-Louise Ritz

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When the news came, Marie-Louise was preparing to give the welcoming speech on behalf of her bedridden husband at the opening of the new Ritz in Budapest. Her son René had had an accident and was seriously injured. But all eyes were on her, and she needed to be strong - she delivered her speech flawlessly before retiring to her room, where she was finally able to express the depth of her emotion.  

This would be the first of many hardships this hospitality pioneer would have to go through. A few weeks after that speech, both her husband and her son died, and she officially took over the management of the Ritz hotels and their branches. In 1918, she became President of the Board of Directors of the Ritz in Paris and a member of the board of the Ritz Hotel Development Company. As a woman running a business in a patriarchal world, she had to overcome obstacles her husband would never have faced, such as being left out of business meetings. But she was determined to continue her husband’s legacy and ran the hotel businesses with energetic strength, talent, and taste.  

The Ritz Family

Her interest in art, literature, and culture contributed to an unforgettable taste for design. She revolutionized hotel designs: she transformed bathrooms into fashionable spaces and was the first person to imagine closets with lights. Under her management, the hotels became the places to go for a stylish getaway where personalized service was key and where the guests would feel pampered. Running the Ritz Paris until 1961, she developed a modern and fashionable hotel during a time when most women couldn’t even dream of running a business.  

So, what can we learn from this remarkable woman and her approach to hospitality?  

Make a difference in people lives  

Providing her guests with the “wow” factor was central to the way Marie-Louise ran her hotels. She saw her husband innovate hotels by being the first hotel to provide fresh bread, and continued his legacy by focusing on the customer experience, innovating, and being creative.   

Partner with creative people  

Marie-Louise immediately knew that August Escoffier should be a long-term partner at the Ritz. The way he innovated his dishes was exactly what she needed to maintain the level of the Ritz. If you want to innovate, partner with creative people!    

Take interest in other fields  

Marie-Louise was passionate about design. It was her unique taste and interest in art that set the Ritz apart. This passion led her to make creative decisions, such as changing all the lights in the bathrooms to make them brighter.     

It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission   

Make bold decisions! Marie-Louise had the "audacity" to allow women to go for drinks in the gentlemen’s club. Many women during this time were starting to speak up, and Marie-Louise was courageous enough to encourage that boldness, making changes in her hotel that were breaking conventions.   

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By Tanja Florenthal

Dean, Le Bouveret and Brig