Manuel, the waiter, bellhop and whipping boy at Fawlty Towers, is played by Andrew Sachs, and appears in all 12 episodes of the show, achieving Top Billing in all of them.
Like Polly, Manuel does so much more for the hotel than his title "waiter" suggests. He is also bellhop, butler, occasional chef and assistant to Basil Fawlty in several of his mad schemes. He is a permanent resident at the hotel with his pet hamster, although he has difficulty telling the difference between a hamster and a rat (2x06 - Basil the Rat).
Manuel is from Barcelona, Spain, and Basil claims to have flown him over to England because he would be cheap labor. Eager to please, Manuel is nonetheless hampered by his poor grasp of English. John Cleese does not blame Manuel for his language barrier but rather Basil, who refuses to pay the extra money for the English classes Manuel should have. Cleese and Sachs disagree on whether or not Manuel is intelligent: Cleese claims he is, but his lack of English skills make him seem less intelligent; Sachs claims he is not, but "there are worse things than not being intelligent." Whenever Manuel misunderstands and makes a mistake—which is often—or sometimes just when Basil needs a scapegoat—again, often—he is subject to physical and verbal abuse from Basil. Despite his haplessness, Manuel loves and admires Basil. Sachs believes this is because Manuel is from a large family in Barcelona, in which being punished was a good thing, because at least it was attention. In England, Manuel has found a family in the Fawltys and Polly which he had lost upon his move from Barcelona, and on this count, Manuel is, as Sachs puts it, "a happy, successful man." He also treats his coworkers like family, even to the point of being protective of them. When Polly is bitten by a small dog in 2x04 - The Kipper and the Corpse, Manuel physically shields her from the spoiled canine.
All agree Manuel is the most sweet-natured, loyal and generous-to-a-fault member of the Fawlty Towers staff. However, he has picked up at least one bad habit from his idol Basil: Whenever he is in charge, Manuel is rude to callers and guests, just as he has seen Basil be (1x02 - The Builders). Despite this flaw, Manuel is the most sympathetic character in the series. Sachs is no doubt correct in asserting he "would make a wonderful husband and father."
- 1x02 - The Builders: Left behind the desk, Manuel takes a caller whom he misunderstands to be asking for Basil, but in fact is Basil. Manuel is rude to the caller, just as Basil would be. When Manuel realizes his mistake, Basil tricks him into calling the largest contractor doing renovations a "hideous orangutan," for which Manuel is punched out.
- 1x03 - The Wedding Party: On his birthday, Manuel receives a gift from the Fawltys - an umbrella. Drunk in celebration, Manuel tries to express his appreciation to Basil, but instead, he knocks Basil to his feet and pokes him in the eye with the umbrella.
- 1x06 - The Germans: Behind the desk, Manuel practices his English accent. As he ducks down behind the desk to dust, Major Gowen hears his voice apparently coming from a moose head left on the counter. The confused Major carries on a conversation with the moose head.
- 2x02 - The Psychiatrist: When Basil falls off a ladder while attempting to see for himself the girl whom one guest has smuggled into the hotel, Manuel tells Sybil Fawlty that Basil was trying to see "girl in room," which Sybil takes as meaning Basil was attempting to be a peeping tom on a pretty guest.
- 2x04 - The Kipper and the Corpse: Manuel and Basil drag a dead body around the hotel all day. At last, Manuel has had enough. He declares he is quitting and crawls inside the laundry basket intended for the corpse to have a rest.
- 2x06 - Basil the Rat: Manuel names his pet hamster Basil, but when Basil Fawlty reveals his pet is a rat which must go, Manuel protests by wearing a black armband and moping around the place.
- The Moustache: Andrew Sachs offered the idea of Manuel wearing a moustache because he did not want to be recognized on the street or typecast as Manuel. He was concerned that director John Howard Davies would veto his idea, as Basil Fawlty already wore a moustache. To his surprise, Davies agreed. On the one hand, Sachs' plan worked, as he was almost never recognized on the street—in one incident, he overheard two ladies on the train discussing the episode from the night before and how much they liked it; although they looked over at him several times, they did not recognize him. On the other hand, his plan was not a success. For many years after Fawlty Towers, he was offered the roles of Mediterranean hotel workers.
- International Variations: In the Spanish dubbed version, Manuel is Italian.
- 1x01 - A Touch of Class: Qué? (Repeated throughout the series.)
- 1x02 - The Builders: Yes, yes, yes?!... Oh, is you again, now listen. He not here. How many times? Where are your ears, you great big halfwit?
- 1x03 - The Wedding Party: No, please, I die here.
- 2x06 - Basil the Rat: Don't hit me! Always you hit me!