The humble bowler-hatted doorman was once a tell-tale sign of a prestigious London address. But he’s quickly being replaced by a tenacious new breed of concierge. The industry travels with the global super-rich, arriving at whichever city blossoms into the darling of the international property market. Multilingual, persistent and well-connected, London’s hard-working concierges are on hand day and night to arrange anything from a plumber to a private jet for some of the most demanding people in the world.
ALBERT ALFONSO HARRODS ESTATES
“When it comes to being a concierge, either you have it or you don’t. You can develop good customer service with training, but if you don’t have a naturally friendly disposition or approachable body language, then you’re not suited to this kind of work.
“Our philosophy at Harrods Estates is ‘anything is possible’ and we try to bring that approach to everything we do. The great thing about working for Harrods is you can access so many services in-house with one phone call. One lady said she wasn’t happy with the job her interior designer had done, so she asked me to furnish her apartment. I don’t have any experience in that at all, but I called the Harrods home department and they got to work on it.
“I’ve flown a pet dog to the Maldives, hired private jets and helicopters and found an authentic Japanese chef for a dinner party. Once we had a power cut for 14 hours, so I got my team to deliver food and bottled water to everyone’s rooms.
“It’s not just about dealing with requests, you have to create a sense of community. I organise free residents’ events by teaming up with local businesses – we recently had a BBQ in the courtyard, for example. I was talking to one gentleman about his daughter’s wedding and offered to put it in the residents’ newsletter and he was just so happy. It’s noticing little things like that. I always say ‘treat them as they want to be treated, not as you want to be treated’ because we’re all different.”
AIMEE ROOTES CADOGAN CONCIERGE
“Our entire service is built towards ensuring our members’ lives are made effortless. We provide everything you could possibly imagine, from arranging domestic staff, dry cleaning, personal shopping and party planning.
“Every day is different which is the really exciting part of my job. Some recent enquiries include red carpet access for the Cannes Film Festival, tickets and private helicopter transfers to the Monaco Grand Prix, sourcing a usually unobtainable Hermes Birkin handbag and arranging an 18th birthday party, complete with boat ride in Little Venice. But I enjoy booking a table at Colbert on Sloane Square as much as the more elaborate requests.
“The most frequent request is to help obtain tickets to sold out events, such as the best seats at Wimbledon or Glastonbury. The most frustrating thing is when, try as we might, we’re just not able to make it happen. In such instances, it’s about recommending suitable alternatives, such as venues or ideas they may not have considered.
“My clients are incredibly busy people and the key challenge is often finding the balance between swift service and building a meaningful personal relationship. This can be done by sitting down for a coffee with them, spending time on the telephone or, increasingly, by email, text message or WhatsApp. It’s about communicating in whatever medium they feel comfortable with so we can anticipate their requests and save them time over the long term.”
RAY WALDOCK, RENDALL & RITTNER
“I’m not sure there’s any request that would shock me now. When you get to know people, they’ll call you in moments of crisis. I had a gentleman from Dublin who’d missed his flight and was trying to get back to his home in Kensington. His wife was coming down from Manchester because it was their anniversary and he was meant to get back a few hours before to set things up. So I had to do all of that – call the florist, get the champagne in…
“From a luxury perspective, our clients know what they want but not always how to set it up. Once I had Maybach bring a number of cars down to the site so a resident could try them all out, like it was their personal showroom.
“We’re here to make sure residents have that work/life balance. Where we’re situated so close to the City, they tend to work long days and we’re here to make sure everything at home is up to the standard they expect. One change that’s stood out for me is that they don’t come to us for recommendations as much these days.
We have to be ready with that information in case they do, but with mobile tech like TopTable and TripAdvisor, that’s a smaller part of our role.”
MATEUSZ GORCZYCA, JAMES ANDREW RESIDENTIAL
“I have to know as many people as I can to do my job well. I have a good knowledge of London, what’s going on and how to get the best out of it for my clients. I’ve managed to get tickets to the Champions League final when there were none left. There are only 23 apartments here so I know everyone very well. They don’t treat me like someone who works for them, they treat me like family.
“Our residents are from all over the world. They all have different mentalities, characters and religions, but if you listen to people and you’re open to learning new things, then it isn’t too difficult.
“It’s always made me happy to help people. As long as you’re smiling, people will feel they can come and talk to you. I studied hospitality and economics in Poland, where I come from. When I came to London, I started working as a kitchen porter in a restaurant. Then I worked in hotels and got promoted to the front of house as the concierge’s assistant.
“When you’re working in this industry, especially in London, you can move around and learn lots of new skills. There are so many opportunities here and you feel that you can get anywhere you want if you work hard and really go for it.”