Richard Leuenberger isn’t one to beat around the bush: he believes that he and his team should be providing the best hospitality experience anywhere in the world. “That’s the goal, right? Most of the time there is something holding you back but here there is no excuse. We have the space, the guests and the resources.”
Badrutt’s Palace is family owned. Anikó Badrutt, the 88-year-old widow of founder Caspar Badrutt’s grandson is the majority shareholder. All profits are put back into the 157-room hotel. “This model works well for us because it is simple,” says Leuenberger. “You know how much you have made and you know how much you can invest.”
This reinvestment is palpable in the sumptuous interior and immaculate staff, as well as the well-upholstered antique furniture adorning the rooms. At a time when many classic hotels feel stifled by fastidious rules and adherence to convention, Badrutt’s has built its name by being quite the opposite. When a young tycoon wanted to present a birthday gift to his animal-loving wife in 1992, Badrutt’s arranged for an elephant to pass it to her in its trunk.
Nowadays, if you want to stage an ice polo tournament, a VIP party for 900 people or a wedding reception with a 120-metre-long apple strudel (one made an appearance at the hotel’s 120th birthday), this is the place.
Is there anything they wouldn’t do? “We do say no to things,” says Leuenberger. “But we say no to things much later than any other hotel in the world.”
Geneva-born Richard Leuenberger has always been fascinated by what it means to host well. Born into a family of entrepreneurs (his father and mother made mustard and pasta), he quickly ascended the ranks of the most renowned hotel brands in the world before becoming general manager of Badrutt’s Palace in 2016. Here he is an omnipresent figure, overseeing 520 employees ranging from waiters and concierges to ski instructors, and the carpenters who maintain the building’s antique furniture.