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Sweating the Details To Pamper Guests

As the managers weighed amenities and menus, they also talked about spreadsheets and whether their choices made sense or might cost too much. They wanted to make sure they could return any leftover Stetson cowboy hats, which will be worn by the doormen and sold in the gift shop.

On to logistics. Was Joseph Mattioli, director of food and beverage, sure his staff could slip into each room on successive nights to place the 300 white chocolate cowboy boots, then the 300 chocolate elephants, then the 300 boxes of chocolate-covered almonds and finally the 300 chocolate deluxe presidential seals each night while guests were out to dinner, Westbrook asked.

Ritz-Carlton executives Wendy Wang and Desmond McKenna try candies that the hotel might offer in the lobby. (Photos Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

"No problem," Mattioli said.

"In 300 guest rooms?" Westbrook asked.

"Absolutely, we can do that," Mattioli said.

"So long as we're not committing to do something that we can't produce, that's the key question," Westbrook said, just to be clear.

The only thing that hadn't been done, it seemed, was sell the hotel's top suite, with a dining room that can seat 10. For $150,000, guests will be flown first-class to Washington, receive ball and parade tickets and have a butler who will go to their home town and pack their clothes in brand-new designer luggage. The package also includes a tuxedo and a designer gown.

If no taker materializes, Evans said, the hotel could sell the room at the posted rate of $5,000 a night -- but minus the trimmings.

One of the last orders of business was to make sure that hotel workers were primed to be as enthusiastic as the guests and that they would recognize regular guests, know their preferences and otherwise appear to be highly informed. To that end, the directors discussed a pep rally and an inauguration trivia quiz, with sweat shirts as prizes.

And T-shirts. On the front is the Ritz lion logo. The back reads, "I Survived Inauguration 2005."

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