What Does it Take to Become a Phenomenal Concierge
Frank Laino is a busy guy: Not only is he the Executive Concierge at London’s storied Stafford Hotel, he’s also the creator and sole operator of “Secrets of St. James,” a new insider’s tour of London’s most heavily trafficked but least-known neighborhood. In his 20-plus years as a concierge, Laino has also collected some serious titles: “Top Concierge Worldwide” by Luxury Travel Advisor, “World’s Best Concierge,” by Virtuoso travel advisors, and “Concierge of the Year” (twice) by Andrew Harper Travel, to name a few. Somehow, we cornered the in-demand Londoner and got the scoop on what it’s really like to be a “keeper of the keys.”
You’ve been a member of the prestigious Society of the Golden Keys since 1987. What is that, and how’d you get in?
It’s a fantastic international organization that connects hotel concierges around the world. Being a global society, its membership requirements vary from country to country, and in the United Kingdom, they’re very strict. You must have worked as a concierge in a four- or five-star hotel for at least five years. You first need to be proposed and seconded by a member, and then you have a (very tough) interview with the committee. I’m a proud member.
What are some traits that every concierge should possess?
An ability to listen and have empathy with the guests. Guests often do not know what they want; they might be jet-lagged and stressed. Be resourceful, which requires a good network and a determination not to take no for an answer. Be a rounded, balanced person—never stop learning. Have the ability to engage clients in intelligent and informed conversation. But never be opinionated.
What’s the biggest perk of being a concierge?
Unquestionably, the people you meet. Not just clients, but suppliers too—and building long term relationship with them.
Have you ever become friends with any of your guests?
Yes, it definitely happens. Recently I was invited by a very regular guest to join him and his family in Sweden. We are both keen cyclists, and we competed in the famous 300-kilometer midnight ride around Sweden’s largest lake.
Have you ever had any strange requests from guests? What were some of the best?
[Ticking them off] Shipping a double-decker bus to the United States. Having a bespoke doggy coat made by a Savile Row tailor. Gift wrapping a Mercedes-Benz sports car for a birthday present. And arranging for a client to see a Vermeer painting in a private collection.
What should you never ask a Concierge?
Don’t ask us to do anything illegal or immoral.
What’s the worst thing about being a concierge?
Hotels are a 24/7 business and you can never be totally in control of events. Sometimes you make painstaking plans for clients—you really pull out all the stops to get that impossible dinner reservation or that “hot ticket,” only to find that they change their mind at the last minute.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you do instead?
I’d be a ski guide in the winter and a professional bike rider in the summer.