A place for sharing secrets: The American Bar at The Stafford

THE INSIDE TRACK • August 2022

Confessions of a hotel concierge

From their uber-exclusive society to the one word they’ll never say, how much do you really know about your hotel concierge? The Stafford London’s executive head concierge, Alan Noone, gives us the goss

How do you spot a concierge?
Luxury hotels can often have a separate concierge desk, like we do here at The Stafford London. In fact, many of the five-star hotels here in London have this kind of separate area. When people are checking in, the front desk is taking payments and dealing with rooms. That’s not the place to be discussing your social arrangements. It’s a discretion thing.

What are the other differences between the concierge and front desk staff?
The concierge will do a lot of pre-planning for guests who have put in requests before they arrive. With the front desk staff, it’s very much all based on two touch points: check in and check out. The concierge fills the space in between. If you ask front desk staff for a restaurant recommendation, they’ll send you our way.


Alan’s restaurant recommendation

For a restaurant where you truly feel that you’re in the heart of London, soaking up everything that’s traditional about British dining, I would have to say Wiltons. It really is an institution and serves exceptional food.

What is The Society of the Golden Keys, and how does a concierge get into it?
The society is a network of working concierges from the world’s top hotels. You have to have been a working concierge at a four- or five-star for at least five years, then be proposed by someone within the society and seconded by a referee who isn’t. And there’s an exam to take – what’s the most ordered dish on your hotel’s à la carte menu? What’s on at the Royal Opera House? – which some concierges do fail.

What does membership entail?
There’s a monthly meeting where all the other head concierges come together to share information and contacts, build connections and recommendations. Every year there’s a congress, which has been held in such places as Malaysia, Argentina and the States. Here (and at the monthly meetings) new businesses and entrepreneurs who become associate members can pitch their products to the concierge network. If we think they’re good enough to be recommended, our guests will know about it.


A bar at the Folies-Bergere, Edouard Manet, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © The Courtauld

Alan’s gallery recommendation

The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House is my personal favourite. It has recently been refurbished and is just so beautiful. There’s always a fantastic array of exhibitions on display.

How can you tell if a concierge is in The Society of the Golden Keys?
You’ll notice we have two Golden Keys brooches on our lapels. I’ve heard of certain guests who will actively seek out concierges who have the keys. That’s not the case at The Stafford London, though, as we’re all members. That’s very rare.

Should you tip your concierge?
It depends. If a concierge gets you tickets to a packed-out show with really great seats, or a fantastic table at a booked-up restaurant, maybe that’s how you show your appreciation, even though that’s just part and parcel of the job. If we’ve done a whole itinerary for a party – cars, restaurants, attractions, and the like – a tip might be more expected in these instances, but we’d never be disappointed without one. Plus, not all cultures tip!


Drinks from the latest cocktail menu at The American Bar

Alan’s bar recommendation

I am, of course, biased, but The American Bar at The Stafford is one of the most popular bars in the city. With a new snacks menu from Lisa Goodwin-Allen and an exceptional new cocktails list, it’s definitely one not to miss. You can even soak up the summer sun in its private courtyard.

Can a concierge get you a room upgrade?
Not really – all that kind of stuff is front desk domain. The rooms and the allocation of rooms is rarely dealt with by the concierges (and thank God for that – that stuff’s a minefield!).

Any guest faux pas?
Especially these days, it’s double and treble booking restaurants. A guest might ask us to book three restaurants, maybe a Chinese restaurant, a French and Indian restaurant. Then, on the night, they’ll decide which to go with. Unfortunately, that kind of thing jeopardises our relationships with our contacts at the various restaurants when we leave them a table down.

What’s the one thing a concierge would never do?
Say no!

This article has been tagged Opinion, Hotels