to Sing Happy Birthday? Call the Concierge
Top hotels trade tales of their most unique guest requests
|December 12, 2006 - When hospitality
professionals get together, there are always stories about eccentric guests
and their outrageous requests. Most of the stories are true; in fact,
the more stars the property has, the more outrageous they are. At
the best Four- and Five-Star hotels, a team of concierges,
and frequently the GM, handle the most unique requests, usually smoothly
and professionally -- even when it requires rebuilding a suite’s bathroom
over the weekend or providing a live goat for a birthday party. The
service motto at the St. Regis New York says it all: “The answer is ‘yes;’
now, what is the question?” But some requests are easier to
answer than others.
Jonathan Ray, chef concierge/director of guest special attention for the exclusive Market Pavilion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, has been discretely answering guest requests for seven years and often with the help of concierge software. "Many of our guests are prominent figures in entertainment, business and sports, and they trust us to protect their privacy," Ray said. "Without naming names, we once had a guest ask that we deliver a live goat to a beach party. Luckily I keep a long list of suppliers of all types in our Concierge Assistant™ software database and was able to quickly reach a nearby farm that rented animals. We provided the goat on time, and at the end of the day the guest returned it in good working order."
The Rittenhouse, an exclusive Five-Diamond property in Philadelphia tops the list when it comes to VIP services. “Bruce Willis stayed with us while he was shooting ‘12 Monkeys’ a few years ago,” said David Benton, the property’s vice president and general manager. The Rittenhouse uses The Concierge Assistant system to track guest requests, but this required more personal attention. “One Friday afternoon, Mr. Willis called me to his suite and asked if we could convert his shower to a steam shower over the weekend while he was out of town. I said we could.” Benton immediately located a special steam unit, called in plumbers, carpenters and glaziers and had them work over the weekend to install the steam shower for Willis. “By Sunday afternoon, we had the job done and the suite back to normal,” Benton was happy to say. “He has been back for two other film shoots and always stays in the same suite.”
The Rittenhouse also hosted the Rolling Stones while they were performing in Philadelphia. “The Stones are great soccer fans,” Benton explained. “Both Mick and Keith asked if we could arrange for them to watch live English soccer matches in their rooms. We had our cable company bring in special programming content with the English games they requested just for their two suites.”
The luxurious Marco Beach Ocean Resort on Marco Island, Florida, with its own private club and spa, is home away from home to many discriminating guests. Philip Starling, the Resort’s managing director remembers one particularly unusual request. “We recently had a guest arriving from California who phoned ahead to ensure we could deliver a large quantity of goats milk to her room daily. The young lady explained that she only bathed in goat’s milk and wanted to know if we had a supplier before she arrived.” The property’s team entered the call in its Concierge Assistant software, which it uses to track guest preferences, and was ready with the milk when the guest arrived. “One of our more enjoyable requests was from a husband who wanted to give his wife a memorable anniversary. He brought a huge banner to the property and asked us privately to arrange for a helicopter to fly it over the Resort’s Beachfront Bar and Grill at a specific time to surprise his wife. With the help of our concierge software, we located a local air transportation company to pull the banner, and it sailed across the sky on schedule. She was very happy.”
In Beverly Hills, California, The Mosaic Hotel has its share of high-end
requests. “The most memorable request we had was for a brand new
Mercedes and driver,” said Mosaic General Manager Brendan Carlin.
“We had a distinguished executive flying in from the UK for meetings and
he emailed that he absolutely had to have a new S555 Mercedes; this was
right after they were announced and they were very hard to find.
He also needed the services of a driver for the week he was on the Coast.”
What’s more, the guest insisted the S550 be black. One of the guest
service tools used by The Mosaic’s guest service team is The Concierge
Assistant system with a database of the area’s service providers.
“We found a black S550 at a local dealer, and when the guest arrived, the
black Mercedes and a driver was on property and ready to roll.”
One of the most respected hotels in the US is The St. Regis New York. Chef Concierge Maria Wittorp-DeJong, a member of the elite Les Clefs d'Or international society of professional concierges, responds to questions about challenging guest requests by printing out a three-page sheet of unusual tasks the property's concierge team has undertaken over the years. “One of our most exciting requests came from a Saudi Prince who wanted to arrange a special Valentine’s Day evening in his suite,”. Wittrop-DeJonge said. “We rented a grand piano, hired a professional Broadway singer and pianist, created a special three-tier cake and decorated the suite with flowers.” The St. Regis New York’s concierge staff has also responded to guest needs by providing duck calls, heart-rate monitors, false eyelashes and T-shirts for dogs.
“Our guests know what they want,” Wittrop-DeJonge continued. “They want a Mercedes limo, not a Town Car. They want cashmere sheets, not cotton – and they are willing to pay for it. We handle so many requests that tracking them accurately is essential; our guests expect it.” The hotel uses The Concierge Assistant software to record all guest requests and link them to the right providers. “Leading-edge technology enables the St. Regis New York’s concierge team to run a paperless operation that generates limo reservations, restaurant dates, maps and itineraries quickly for guests on tight schedules so we can continue to always say ‘yes’ -- regardless of the request.”
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