Deluxe Magazine Article

This is a small list of my favourite restaurants and bars in and around Cape Town, which was done for the South Africa Deluxe Magazine.

DeluxeConcierge-page-001

 

It was written for Deluxe Magazine. As a really up market publication covering topics such as property, entertainment, luxury branded items and society news, I’m very glad to be able to contribute in a small part to it. Details for South Africa Deluxe can be found here

 

 

 

My 10 Commandments for hotel guests and visitors

My suggested ‘Commandments’ for your next hotel stay. If you’re a ‘good guest’ then please enjoy the opportunity to have a good laugh when you see these things happening in hotels yourself.

1)Thou shalt not steal our expensive full size glass bottled bathroom amenities, when they are for sale at reasonable rates. I know it’s ‘REALLY good’; that’s why we give you mini bottles you can take away for free.

These little dudes are yours to keep

These little dudes are yours to keep

2) Thou shalt not get drunk and make a public spectacle of yourself. It’s not even a little embarrassing for us. Only you will feel a fool the following day.

Drunk

3)Thou shalt not walk around the breakfast restaurant and ‘nibble’ without sitting down and paying.

Breakfast buffet

4) Thou shalt not use the free hotel transport 10 times a day, and then the ONE TIME you use the paid service, try to pretend that: ‘No one told me there was a charge!”

Child sticking out tongue

No caption needed. You know what you are

5) Thou shalt not, or to be precise, should not, stuff your face like a little piggy at the buffet. Yes it’s free; and yes you’ve paid for it, indirectly…but come on!

Don't be greedy

Don’t be greedy

6) Thou shalt not bring plastic bags with clothing in when you check into a 5 star,  or any star really, hotel. Maybe you don’t have a bag/case. Borrow one. I’ve got a few spare.

Charlie Chaplin

This is more the look we prefer. Just living people. Obviously

7) Thou shalt not eat take away food in the main hotel lobby in FULL view of other guests.

Man with many plates of food

We don’t like this

8) Thou shalt not verbally or physically threaten or abuse your family, friends, other guests or hotel staff. We have panic buttons. Enough said.

This is silly, and awkward for everyone.

This is silly, and awkward for everyone.

9) We have cameras everywhere. No, really. EVERYWHERE

Who's watching whom?

Who’s watching whom?

10) And lastly, we are here to serve and make your stay a memorable and enjoyable one. It helps if you treat us with dignity and respect.

When you're happy we're happy. Maybe a little too happy

When you’re happy, we’re happy. Maybe a little too happy

Featured Hotel – The Peninsula, Hong Kong

The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

The ‘Godfather’ of luxury hotels. Synonymous with opulence, aristocracy and celebrity. This is the quintessential five star hotel. Originally built in the roaring ’20s, The Peninsula Hong Kong, or the “Grand Dame of the East,” remains one of the world’s most magnificent hotels to this day

There may have been a flurry of ‘perceived’ 6 and/or 7 star hotels opening in the past decade; but as I’ve discussed in a past post ‘What makes a great five star hotel?’ the world ranks hotels up to five star and no further. End of story.

The Peninsula, Hong Kong has always been my favourite hotel in the world. It illustrates all that I love about the hotel industry. It has class, pedigree and a glowing; well deserved, reputation. Hong Kong’s oldest hotel, The Peninsula has been voted the world’s best hotel on several occasions, and is widely regarded as one of the region’s legendary properties.

The Peninsula before WWII

The Peninsula before WWII

It was opened in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong in December 1928, built with the idea that it would be “the finest hotel east of Suez.” The location of the hotel was extremely strategic, as passengers arriving in Hong Kong by ocean liner disembarked onto the quays of Kowloon, directly opposite the hotel. Kowloon was also the last stop on the trans-Siberian rail link that brought travelers from Europe. As such, the Peninsula hotel was ideally situated to take advantage of the increasing number of wealthy visitors to the area.

Rolls Royce Phantom

Rolls Royce Phantom

Today it has a fleet of 14; yes I said 14, Rolls Royce Phantom’s used to transfer their guests around the city.

All finished in signature Peninsula Green, each vehicle in The Peninsula’s latest fleet has undergone bespoke modifications to suit the needs of guests, providing relaxed, comfortable and luxurious transportation to and from the airport. 

The Peninsula, Hong Kong gave Rolls Royce their largest order in history, when in 2006 they replaced their fleet of Rolls Royce Silver Spurs. These vehicles, and the hotel as a backdrop, were used in the “Bond…James Bond” film ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’

The Peninsula has all the elements of what draws people to spend their time in luxury hotels. From a collection of highly acclaimed restaurants, beautifully appointed public areas and suites to their world class health spa and indoor swimming pool with a view of Hong Kong Harbour; it’s difficult to imagine what this grand old dame lacks.

The Grand Lobby

The Grand Lobby

The Peninsula Pool Deck

The Peninsula Pool Deck

The Asian Tea Lounge

The Asian Tea Lounge

What it has managed to achieve, is maintaining their hard earned reputation through a World War, The Battle of Hong Kong, a military enforced name change, British colonial rule and the latest of worldwide recessions. No mean feat.

It is a shining example of what a truly great hotel should be; and what all should aspire to.

Social media – Be a winner, not a loser

Much is said in the news and online about the power of social media. My last post ‘How social media has changed how we do business’ touched on some of the types of social media we use, sometimes unwittingly, on a daily basis; and also how we can make it work to our advantage. The world is becoming smaller and smaller every day and most of us interact with new and exciting, and yes, sometimes boring, people every day.

That's just a pretty girl, irrelevant to any point I'll be making

What I think is perhaps more crucial, however, is making sure that you don’t do any damage to your reputation, brand or company; either personally or professionally.

Being no stranger myself to controversy and, shall we say, somewhat of ‘take no nonsense’ attitude especially when I believe myself; perhaps not to be right, but at least to have a defendable point; I’ve learnt some key aspects in dealing with the issues that an active social media presence can bring.

We have all read or heard the stories in the past few years of high profile sports people, actors, musicians and even politicians who have fallen victim to the outrage and controversy that a short fuse or an off colour remark can cause.

It’s a sign of the times that we live in, and I for one am not entirely happy about the direction the world is taking. Gone are the days when whimsy is mistaken for humour. The world has gone and gotten itself a serious attitude problem and there is very little, if any, room left for humour and laughter.  When a person or brand/company messes up it’s usually followed by the expected barrage of criticism, judgement and ridicule; no need to flog that dead horse.

Silence is golden

The prevalence of social media has only served to exacerbate the ‘ripple effect’ of fallout in such a situation. When something newsworthy happened, even 10 years ago, the effect would only really be quantifiable in days. Now with tools such as Facebook and Twitter, it can spread like wildfire across the globe within minutes.

Honesty, integrity and basic human dignity should be amongst the most important of these. Because, no matter how witty or ‘funny’ you think you are being; no one wants to hear you being crude, homophobic or racist. There is a fine line between humour and stupidity; if you can’t get it right it’s better to not say anything.

But the very nature of people is to have opinions. I see it on a daily basis and it makes me cringe. We all have opinions and views; but very few, if any of us are in a position to back up and defend most of them. Hence the ‘sit down and shut up’ tone of this post.

The biggest ‘cringe moment’ I find is when companies or brands get themselves embroiled in a personal spat with a customer or client. This is, quite honestly, unforgivable. Coming from a background of the service industry I have always been taught that ‘the customer is always right’ That’s a lot of baloney quite honestly! The customer is very often wrong; but the customer is always a customer. There is NEVER an appropriate time to have a public spat with a customer. Never. The End. Perhaps I’m a lot more subservient that most given what I do; but my points of sticking to honesty, integrity and human dignity show through here.

Recently there was an incident at a local restaurant. Things happened or didn’t,  things were said or weren’t. With the modern world’s fascination with social media, the incident was very quickly blown out of proportion and the restaurant and it’s management and/or PR people needed to do damage control.

Don't wanna play with you no more

What ended up happening after much back and forth was a petty childish game of ‘one-upmanship’ on the restaurants side; attempting to play down the incident on one hand, and humiliate on the other hand; the customer. Only the few people directly involved know the real story so I’m not going to pass judgement on who was right or wrong.

Sometimes you really just need to back off, apologise and move on. Who cares who was right or wrong? If you can’t handle that or it’s ‘not you’; then you need to find a new career.

In a world that encourages rapid circulation of news, drama and gossip, you really cannot afford to stand on shaky moral ground when the social media tsunami comes; and come it shall, believe me.

Social media has the potential to expose your brand to the most vociferous and supportive of people. Those that you want to be following and promoting your brand. Keep your ‘voice’ online regular, honest and fair. If you have a valid criticism make sure that you address it immediately, make sure you have full contact information for the complainant and ensure that you provide feedback within the day or next at the latest. When you are well reviewed or praised accept it gracefully and with humility.

There are so many examples and hints I could give but it really just boils down to good manners, a clear head and a big helping of patience. I was always taught that good manners are non-negotiable. So simple to have them and use them to your benefit; and conversely, a disaster when you don’t.

Be a winner. No one likes a loser

How social media has changed how we do business

It’s a fast moving and ever changing world we live in. In my time as a working professional I’ve seen an amazing shift in the way companies do business; and what makes this even more interesting, is that I’ve only been working for just over 12 years!

I remember very clearly how things worked at my first job. It was run on principles and business practises refined through the successes and failures of over a century of operation. There were no rash decisions made here. No quick fixes to problems. And most importantly decisions that could potentially impact the hotel on a grand scale either in terms, were not made by an individual, but rather discussed amongst the senior management team and a suitable solution was found. This is a state of affairs that I have seen very little of working in Cape Town. I certainly don’t think it is unique to Cape Town, or even South Africa; but more that it is indicative of the issue of inexperienced people in decision making positions.

Tweet me baby

Tweet me baby

But I’ve flogged that dead horse in other posts, so I’ll try contain my irritation, at least till the end of this post.

My point, before I jumped off on a tangent, is that the world is a different place these days. The way businesses are run now is inherently different from how they were run even 10 years ago. Large corporations that have existed for many years will always have a history of business practise to call upon in tough times, and this experience can be invaluable. But looking to the future, businesses of all sizes, shapes and styles need to be aware of the paradigm shift that has occurred within the technology world regarding receiving and transmitting of information.

The world is becoming more and more of an information highway than ever before. Smart phones, ultra mobile laptops, hand-held tablets or iPads, electronic billboards, and of course the BIGGEST one of all, social media.

Our good friends over at Wikipedia define social media as ‘the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue’ I know, right? Complete mystery to me also…

But for most of us, we have been using and communicating via social media for years, perhaps unknowingly. Some examples of the social media we use today are Twitter, Lamebook Facebook, Instagram and Groupon.

twitter-logo

Facebook

 

 

 

url

 

 

 

 

Many companies have been early adopters and have reaped the benefits of gaining instant feedback of their brand; and of course, this means that that have been able to provide assistance and have dialogue with customers on a more personal level. And let’s face it; in this new modern where call centres have basically removed the human element from businesses, this kind of dialogue gives one a sense of humanity back.

I’ll give you an example: Vodacom; probably South Africa’s biggest cellular & mobile broadband provider has an entire department geared towards handling Social Media. Not one or two spotty, greasy trainees using Facebook and Twitter a few times a week; an ENTIRE department who deal ONLY with this vital communication tool. That’s what we socially advanced types would call #winning.

Accommodation establishments worldwide have learnt very quickly that instant feedback from guests is crucial in achieving that all important ‘repeat business’ If you are monitoring tweets and Facebook posts and notice a guest posting a complaint this can be immediately actioned. I’ve personally seen an unflattering tweet from a guest and within 5 minutes was able to have the issue resolved or feedback given; resulting in a glowing review when the guests left. Simple. Easy. Effective. Make technology work FOR you.

Large worldwide hotel chains and restaurants use Foursquare on a massive scale; offering discounted room rates, free upgrades, complimentary breakfasts and more, in return for check ins on the location based service. It’s seen some small application in South Africa, but generally we tend to lag behind in the technology stakes, I would assume because of the high costs of data and the low ratio of smart phone users amongst the majority of people.

Whatever your ‘poison’ Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare or all of them; just remember you can ignore social media; it won’t ignore you or your brand…

I am Concierge.

Does a professional Concierge have a future?

Is there a place in the future for a professional Concierge?

I’d like to think so, obviously. I do believe that every hotel should have a Concierge. And no, not just the fancy 5 star hotels that most people cannot afford to stay in regularly. Every single hotel.

I shall, of course, give my reasons for this bold statement.

Does this seem like overkill? Is a professional Concierge an unnecessary expense or position to take on? From a completely unbiased position I believe that having a great Concierge in an establishment is like offering clean sheets, housekeeping services, decent breakfast buffet and free wi-fi i.e. Mandatory and essential. And without trying to sound too arrogant, I believe that a great Concierge is of more use to guests than most of these things.

Let’s get into that statement. In this new world so consumed by technology it’s easy to replace many things in life. You really don’t need a travel agent any more; you can book flights, accommodation, airport transfers, restaurants and excursions online. You don’t need to go to the supermarket any more; most popular supermarkets offer an on-line ordering system with delivery. You can book sport, theatre and other performance tickets online. And with the advent of smart phones you will, in the very near future, not even need to carry cash or bank cards with you; you will be able to make payments and transfers directly from your phone at almost all retail outlets; this is obviously a step up from the current trend of mobile internet banking. As the man behind Apple’s huge resurgence, Steve Jobs, notes, “there is an app for that”…and if there isn’t currently there will be one very soon.

Focus on my article please!

Focus on my article please!

Ok, so the world is shifting people into a self-sufficient world where they can do what they need to do, go about their lives and have very little interaction with anyone unless necessary. This high-tech trend, you would think, would spell the end for a career as a real life professional Concierge right?

Nope, you’re wrong. And here’s why.

Will your smart phone be able to get you onto the guest list of the hottest club in town? Will the internet magically create space in a fully booked restaurant? As much as I personally love and promote them, no iPhone application will be able to get you those front row U2 concert tickets when they sold out within hours of going on sale. In essence; no amount of clicking, tapping or pleading with the internet gods or can do what an experienced Concierge can do for you.

'We LOVE you Concierge! I think they're saying

‘We LOVE Concierges! I think they’re saying

And the best part of all is that everything that we can do for you is completely free! Seriously! Knowing this, how could you even consider not having your own personal Concierge or at the very least not use a Concierge on a regular basis? We know everything there is to know. We go out of our way to assist everyone we meet; be it a hotel guest, friend, colleague or stranger; not because we have something to gain, but just because that is our nature.

I’ve worked my whole life in 5 star hotels and love my job. Sure it has its ups and downs like anything else; but when you find your passion in life; that one thing you do that makes you genuinely happy and content, well, it’s pretty damn awesome!

I’ve realised that being a hotel Concierge is as close to the perfect job as I think I’ll ever get and I know that I add great value to my property. And I know that each excellent Concierge around the world who aspires to the same ideals and ambitions that I do adds huge value to their own property.

I’m a great Concierge who has many wonderful clients and friends, and I; or someone like me could be changing how you live and organise your life soon.

I Am Concierge

Restaurants. Reviews. Drama.

As a 5 star hotel Concierge I have long been relied upon to suggest suitable restaurants to my guests, and of course, by association, friends and family as well.

I’m a big foodie. By that statement I mean I love great food, wine, restaurants and the ‘theatre’ that is involved in a fine dining experience. I certainly am not an expert, nor have I been professionally trained in wines, food preparation nor as a restaurant critic. But I am of the opinion that no matter who people are, they have opinions, and those opinions are allowed to be expressed in a private or public forum if needs be.

Recently I have noticed a distinct thinly veiled hostility towards the food/wine blogging community in Cape Town. I am certain that in other parts of the country and the world there is similar sentiment, but Cape Town is my home and the centre of my universe so I really couldn’t be bothered by anything outside my own community. What seems to be the main issue up for debate, or in some cases, abuse; is the plethora of bloggers posting reviews and/or comments on their experiences at restaurants, hotel, bars etc… without having the ‘required’ professional qualifications to do so.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I think it’s perfectly acceptable that people visit a restaurant, hotel or wine estate and provide feedback, either positive or negative. No one has anything to say when a positive review is posted, however when a negative review surfaces the knives, slander and bitchiness come out to play. It would be wrong to assume that this negativity originates only from people associated directly with the restaurant or hotel concerned. More and more it seems that people who happen to like that particular location for whatever reason are so closed off to the possibility that it might not actually be the best place on Earth, that they launch personal attacks on those writing reviews. Why people? Why?

If you run a perfect business, company, coffee shop, soup kitchen or household then you are above all criticism. The Concierge salutes your achievements of an impossible standard. Hmmm, did I overdo the criticism there just a tad? My bad.

Yes, yes. She is VERY distracting!

Yes, yes. She is VERY distracting!

Of course no one is perfect; (my future ex-wife, Adriana Lima is pretty damn close though) and businesses are even further away from perfect, since they are compromised of the same imperfect individuals that we all are.

So why is there the perceived impression that people who write or even talk about their experiences needing to be professionally qualified and experienced to do so? Most of the decent food websites in the country have reviews posted to them. And a brilliant idea it is for those people looking for honest, un-fancy and unfiltered feedback from ‘normal’ people about hotels and restaurants . As a professional Concierge I feel that I am a little more informed about food, wine, service and standards than the average person may be. This may or may not be true and of course that does not make me a critic. It also does not mean that I cannot express my opinions in any way I like. Freedom of expression and all that right?

I think everyone just needs to have a sit down, shoot some Cuervo and relax. What would the world be without people honest enough to give their opinion? A world of sheep and cowards that’s what; and to tell you the truth I wouldn’t want to live in that world. Take me out back, like old Bessy the cow, and shoot me dead. Please.

So, back on topic. I love restaurants. What’s not to love? Food, alcohol, location and service. In the correct combination and/or done well it’s just brilliant. But get just one of these ingredients wrong and it’s a big ‘ol mess. And it doesn’t even need to be the little family run cafe that have this problem. The big fancy corporate places can get it wrong just as often, sometimes more. The issue I like to focus on is the human element since it’s so close to my own industry and what I am more informed about.

The human element is what WILL make or break a restaurant, bar, club or business. You can make a lousy location work. Look at a restaurant like Bizerca Bistro for example. It’s a stunning space no doubt, and the food is brilliant. But tucked away in a side street that most Capetonians have never been on? It could/should have bombed big time. But it didn’t; and it hasn’t because they have gotten ticks in all the right boxes. Food, attitude, business model, service etc… It’s one of the countries best and it’s a good thing it’s almost hidden away. I’d hate to struggle to get a table if it becomes another location the ‘trendy pretty’ people go to be seen. Conversely, having a beautiful location doesn’t guarantee excellence either. I’m certainly not going to name names; but Camps Bay is a perfect example of this. So much rubbish in one stretch of prime real estate should be criminal! Of the plethora of restaurants and cafes I would certainly not rate more than 3 or 4 as decent. As that’s ‘Camps Bay decent’; not ‘town’ decent.’

Pretty, but most likely crap

Pretty, but most likely crap

One thing that I would like to impart on the world you all is something that I have come to realise. Great location = Obnoxious staff and average food. Average/Poor Location = Friendly staff and brilliant food. Think I got this ass backwards? I think not. Think about some of your favorite restaurants in Cape Town, South Africa and the world. Do they have great views or do they not? I’ve been to more restaurants than I care to remember and my top 10 favorites all do not have a decent view, or in some cases, have no views at all. Look at international restaurants like Le Gavroche, The Fat Duck and The French Laundry for example. Little or no views to speak of but they are among the best in the world. A coincidence? I like to think not.

Why is this? When your restaurant has a great view you are patronised by the wealthy, trendy, pretty people because your restaurant looks good and is ‘in.’ You will become lazy about providing the very best experience possible because you just don’t need to push at that level to stay popular or busy. You probably know that your location is bringing in the customers rather than your food or great customer service. Who cares then huh? And on the flip side; when your restaurant is on the ground floor of some CBD mall or in an old building with no sea/mountain views you HAVE to get every single thing right to ensure that you keep your customers coming back for more. You have to work that much harder to entice the ‘pretty people’ away from the trendy restaurants.

Personally I could care less for the ‘pretty’ restaurants. I don’t need a great view to enjoy my meal. That’s why I have a pretty girl to look at instead. I like to believe that when people come to me for a recommendation; or go out on their own for a meal, they actually want to eat brilliant food. They don’t want to ‘people watch’ and they don’t want to just ‘be seen’ at the seasons latest hot spot.

This looks a lot more my style

This looks a lot more my style

What do you think? Is there a middle ground? Can there be a great; and I mean great, not decent, restaurant with a spectacular view? Will regular people ever be able to give feedback on restaurants without being personally attacked? Will quagga’s ever be cloned? I’m looking forward to the answers to all of these questions

I Am Concierge