The Cultivation of a Concierge

Go down

The Cultivation of a Concierge

Post by Admin on Sat 12 Oct - 13:44

LONDON — Donato Bottiglieri has the kind of smile that sneaks up on you — the kind that makes a concierge a bit of a celebrity in his hotel world. The kind of warm but mischievous smile that sends you out for an evening knowing that it is going to be wonderful.

And it is his smile that makes Mr. Bottiglieri a favorite among guests at One Aldwych, the chic London hotel that sits between two Londons: the financial world to the east and the theater world of Covent Garden just outside its doors to the west.

He, too, straddles different sides of London. Mr. Bottiglieri, who turns 30 in November, moonlights as a musician and D.J. So he is known for sending guests not only to the best restaurants around London but also to the burgeoning nightclub scene that has emerged in trendy East London over the past five to 10 years.

Mr. Bottiglieri has about five or six clubs he prefers — “I don’t like to say which clubs. I keep that for my guests.” But he says there is a trend toward more intimate clubs rather than what he calls the “superdiscos” of five or six years ago.

In a city packed with five-star hotels, Mr. Bottiglieri has to know not only about restaurants and theater tickets to do his job well, but also about the side of London that doesn’t have a big place in guidebooks.

“I work in a luxury hotel, but sometimes guests want something not so luxurious and more local, like in East London,” he said, glancing around the hotel lobby, the soaring atrium of an Edwardian-era building. “Maybe you want to go and visit different neighborhoods. You might need to experience it yourself.”

Mr. Bottiglieri has lived in East London for much of his eight years in the city. He grew up in Milan and, as part of his schooling, began working in hotels at age 14. He interned at two chain hotels, then after graduation was a page boy for two years at the exclusive Principe di Savoia Hotel, where he opened doors, ran errands, cleaned ashtrays and delivered newspapers.

During those years, he said, he began watching the hotels’ concierges, observing how they engaged with guests. He decided it would be the job for him, and began improving his English as one step toward that goal.

After working for a short time at the Milan Marriott, he secured a transfer to the Marriott Canary Wharf in London, but tourism plummeted after the terrorist attacks of July 7, 2005, and his contract was canceled. Then a friend in Milan made a call to a former colleague who was working at One Aldwych.

“He told her that there was an opening for a doorman, but she told him, ‘Donato is too short to be a doorman,”’ Mr. Bottiglieri said with a laugh. (He is 165 centimeters, or 5 feet, 4 inches tall.) “A doorman is usually an experienced man, quite tall. But they hired me anyway.”

He started in September 2005, at age 22, and was promoted the following year to assistant concierge.

Eight years later he is fluent in English and telling guests about a very different city than he first experienced. When he arrived, he recalled, he went to as many restaurants and shows as he could, exploring neighborhoods and working on his English. He went to nightclubs and made contacts in the music scene.

Restaurants he visited on his lunch hour, but sometimes he only ordered one course or had a drink. It is common for restaurants to court concierges, especially those attached to luxury hotels, offering them food and drink with the hope that they, in turn, will send guests — but Mr. Bottiglieri said he went on his own, just to soak up the ambience.

Knowing London is an important part of the job, Mr. Bottiglieri said, but being a concierge is also about assessing guests and getting to know a little bit more about them — sometimes plenty.

“The concierge is really the person in a hotel who has time to hear your demands and maybe even your secrets,” said Stefan Fraenkel, a professor of hospitality at the École Hôtelière de Lausanne, founded in Switzerland in 1893. “Guests can tell the concierge things they tell nobody else or make deeply personal requests, but then walk away — a bit like a confessional in a Catholic church.”

For Mr. Bottiglieri, basic psychology comes into play when he first meets a guest.

“You always get some background information. Where have they been? What shows do they like? What kinds of food?” he said. “It’s all about getting feedback from the guest.”

And getting feedback is something he knows about in both of his worlds.

“If you’re the D.J., you’re in control of the music. You’re sort of guiding people through a journey and making them feel good. It’s sort of like being a concierge,” he said. “If a guest wants to go for a nice evening, you have to provide that for them and guide them through it a bit.”

Alan Vieira, head concierge at One Aldwych, recalled an example of Mr. Bottiglieri’s approach to the job.

“A guest who had just checked out called the concierge desk from Heathrow quite distressed,” Mr. Vieira said. “He explained to Donato that he had left his passport in his guest-room safe. His flight was due to take off for New York very shortly.” He said Mr. Bottiglieri got the passport and took a taxi to the airport, reaching the guest with only minutes to spare.

“Now we’re the best of friends,” Mr. Bottiglieri said, adding that the guest has returned to the hotel many times.

But Mr. Bottiglieri said his most memorable incident involved a Saudi businessman staying at One Aldwych and 20 boxes of breakfast cereal.

The man’s wife “wanted Fruit ’n Fibre, but only the Italian kind, because it comes without bananas,” Mr. Bottiglieri said, faintly repressing the ever-present smile.

The couple was planning a month’s travel in Europe — but without a stop in Italy — and she wanted to bring her favorite cereal along. Mr. Bottiglieri telephoned a grocery store near where he grew up in Milan and an Italian colleague from the hotel flew down, returning the next day with a full suitcase.

“A concierge has to be everything: a psychologist, an ambassador, a policeman, an actor. You have to be a real character,” he said. “And sometimes you meet some real characters.”

Admin
Admin

Posts : 109
Join date : 2013-09-10

View user profile http://united-states.goodforum.net

Back to top Go down

Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum