26/06/2018 10:37 BST | Updated 02/08/2018 11:18 BST

Reasons A Hotel's Concierge Is Your Secret Weapon On A Business Trip

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According to a recent survey by Crowne Plaza® Hotels and Resorts, two of the best things about downtime for the modern business traveller are experiencing a new culture (36%) and enjoying good food and drink (28%). And there’s one person in the hotel who can ensure you get the best out of both – the concierge.
‘The concierge is the ultimate fixer, a near-mythical figure who knows how to get things.’
But a great concierge doesn’t just happen. Like a fine wine, it takes time, patience and skill. All of which makes Frank Guergue a vintage Château Lafite. With 18 years experience as a concierge at some of London’s top hotels, there’s no better contact for guests keen to make the most out of their stay in one of the world's most exciting cities.
Frank has spent most of his life in London. Indeed, he works in Crowne Plaza London - The City, situated in London’s historic Square Mile. The city is in his bones. If he’s to be effective in his job, he needs to have all of this accumulated knowledge on hand for his guests, as well as be ahead of the curve when it comes to what’s new in the city.
‘It’s really important to keep abreast of what’s happening, and to know ahead of time what the new trends are,’ he says.
Guests will often do their own research prior to visiting, and might want to check out a new restaurant or bar that’s all the rage. ‘With restaurants, you need to build relationships with managers, especially at those restaurants where it’s hard to get tables at short notice,’ Frank says. ‘If you can do that, they’ll usually hold a few tables aside and make sure they look after your guests.’
Frank is part of The Society of the Golden Keys, an association that ensures extremely high standards among concierges. ‘It’s the pinnacle for a concierge,’ says Frank. ‘In order to join, they put you through an intensive knowledge test where you’re asked questions about everything that’s going on in your city. We have a meeting once a month where people come to talk – restaurant managers, tour guides and so on – and this helps keep us up to date with what’s going on.’
Business and pleasure
‘The main requests from business travellers are for restaurants, bars and theatre tickets,’ says Frank. Fortunately for them, a phone call or email from him and everything is sorted. ‘A concierge needs to develop a large network of contacts and this takes time,’ he says. ‘When you work with people day in, day out, over months or years, you develop a very close relationship with them, so they’ll go out of their way to help you.’

The nature of Frank’s job means his business is often his pleasure. ‘With my downtime, I like to investigate what I recommend to other people, especially with restaurants. I’m a big foodie, and in my business you get a lot of invites to restaurants. Also, through The Golden keys we get theatre tickets to new shows, which my wife loves.’
Problem solving
Some might suggest that the role of the concierge is being made redundant by the internet. After all, if I want to know about a restaurant or show, can’t I do it all online?

‘By the time a guest comes to you it means they can’t sort out the issue themselves,’ says Frank. After all, it’s one thing to know a restaurant you want to go to, and quite another to get a table. This is where Frank’s extensive network of contacts comes into play. But he also has to have a highly organised mind.

‘With business travellers your busiest time is inevitably between 5pm and 8pm. You will have a lot of people making requests and it’s important that no one feels neglected. We usually have about three of us working the shift then, so I have a lot of help. Some requests are straight-forward, some more complicated, and you have to know how to prioritise and divide up your time.’

Because business guests have more time restraints, organising their downtime can be different. So for example, for those wanting to explore the city, Frank might recommend a night tour. ‘London at night is very beautiful,’ he says. ‘Or when a gallery or museum stays open late, I might recommend that to a business guest looking to switch off from work and take in some of the city’s culture.’
Can do attitude
The real test for a concierge like Frank comes when a guest has a request that’s a little out of the ordinary. Or a lot.
‘I had a guest once who, at very short notice, wanted to buy a life-sized replica of one of Michaelangelo’s sculptures to take back to South Africa.’
‘As you can imagine, you don’t come to work expecting that. We had to make a lot of calls and call in a lot of favours, but we managed it. It was exciting to see if we could do it, and fun as well because you’re learning something new in the process.’

This 'can do' attitude is fundamental to being a great concierge. ‘One of the best experiences I’ve had was a request from a guest who was flying that day from London to Sydney and wanted tickets for the F1 Grand Prix taking place shortly after he arrived there. So I got to work with my contacts and was able to have the tickets waiting for him at the hotel in Sydney. He was completely over the moon. There’s a real sense of personal pride in being able to organise something like that.’
The right stuff
For Frank, being a concierge requires a very specific skill-set. 'You have to be passionate about guest service,’ he says. ‘You also have to be extrovert and have a genuine smile for your guests, as well as be honest and ethical in everything you do.’

Empathy is also essential. ‘Business travellers face all kinds of challenges, not least the pressure of work, but they also need a place to recharge their batteries and connect with their families. So you want to make sure they’re in a position to do these things, whether it’s recommending a nice liqueur to help them unwind after a busy day, making sure they’ve got a good internet connection so they can stay in touch with their family, or suggesting a night tour of the city so they can make the most of their downtime here. London at night is very beautiful.’

‘Ultimately,’ says Frank, ‘we want to make sure that, whether guests are here for business or pleasure, they can be at 100% for whatever they do.’
To find out more about how Crowne Plaza is changing the face of modern business travel, or to book a room, visit crowneplaza.com/businessmostly
* Concierge services are available at selected Crowne Plaza® Hotels & Resorts