Life as head concierge at a five-star hotel ensures there’s never a dull moment during the day. But what keeps The Lanesborough’s Simon Thomas so busy?
“At this level of hospitality, it’s all about preparation – it’s about getting things right and knowing your guests,” says Simon Thomas over a delicate, bone china cup of coffee one morning. We’re in The Withdrawing Room at The Lanesborough, on the northeast corner of Belgravia; a plush, comfortable atmosphere in which to have a chat.
Born and bred in North Wales, Simon left his metal engineering job in the early 1980s for London to see what the city held for him. In his words, it was “a little Dick Whittington-like”. He took up a similar job and didn’t enjoy it – he was away from his friends and family and decided to head back. In order to raise the money for his train fare, he took up a position as a pageboy at Grosvenor House. “That was my first experience with hotels, and I’ve not looked back since,” he says. His return train journey to Wales never happened.
Simon believes that “knowing your guests” is extremely important, and this is one of the key aspects to becoming an excellent concierge. “One of the tricky things with this role is that you can’t ever focus on one thing,” he explains. “There is always so much going on to make something happen but, of course, everything stops for the guests.” A good concierge quickly learns to have eyes in the back of their head, in order to never miss an opportunity to wish a guest a good morning or ask how their meal in the restaurant was last night. As Simon puts it: “Recognition is key.”
“There are guests who have followed me from my previous hotel to come and stay here,” Simon tells me with a smile. “It’s nice to see regular guests, of course.” While many hotel guests show their gratitude for tireless concierges through tips, Simon often receives personal items that are a little more special. “Sometimes it can be homemade jam, or someone will remember my birthday, and that’s worth far more than money. When my daughter was born, I received gifts from all around the world and it means you matter to them – when you matter to a guest, you’ve cracked it.”
The tasks in hand
It’s not just arranging theatre tickets and postal orders for guests that keeps the 35-strong team busy. “I think one of the attractions of this job is that every day is different. One moment you might be getting stamps for a letter, but then the next you might be arranging for a jet to Geneva for someone, or sourcing a particular breeder of a specific dog,” Simon says.