Samuel Léveillé, which hotel do you work for and how long have you been working there as a concierge?
I work for the Mandarin Oriental in Geneva as Chef Concierge. I started in September, 2008, so I’m working there for almost 9 years now.
Are you living your profession under a certain slogan?
I don’t really know if you can call it a slogan, but I like to say “come to work with a smile”. This is really easy to do and it helps you to start your day positively, even if you know that you are going to have a tough day.
Can you look back on a long career as concierge? How did you get to work as a hotel concierge and member of Les Clefs d’Or?
Originally, I studied in the Hotel and Catering School of Saumur, France. I was predestined to become a cook. After five years at school, I had the chance to experience a summer season in Saint-Tropez as a “Pool Boy”. While I was working as a pool boy there, I discovered guest services such as porter, doorman and concierge service. I was watching those Les Clefs d’Or Concierges wearing a uniform and interacting with guests, making the impossible possible.
I decided to take a chance and become a concierge myself. Some of the concierges I have met shared their passion with me… Therefore, I started as a Night Concierge in Nice, where I met my mentor. After 9 years in the same hotel, I climbed up to the position of Deputy Head Concierge. I moved to Switzerland in 2008.
I have been a member of Les Clefs d’Or since 2001 and had various positions in the French Clefs d’Or Board (First Treasurer, then Secretary of Les Clefs d’Or Côte d’Azur – Principality of Monaco and then Conseiller National).
Tell us about the profession of the hotel concierge. What is special about it, what connects you to this job?
The profession has changed a lot in the past ten years, but it still remains the most attractive position if you want to get a privileged interaction with guests. Concierges remain the privileged guest contact in a hotel. Nowadays, a concierge is a “solution finder” in addition to providing good advice for activities, restaurants, sights etc.
The daily challenge of this job is that you never know what questions guests are going to ask.
Today, concierge teams have to be “connected”. Most of our requests are made by email. Lots of our guests communicate by written messages. To implement guest services at Mandarin Oriental in Geneva, we have created a “WhatsApp” connection between guests and the concierge team. When our clients are outside the hotel, we remain close to them thanks to this “WhatsApp” connection.
There is no “routine” in the concierge profession!
What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages concerning your profession?
For me, the biggest advantage is that I have the chance to meet great people, guests and suppliers alike. This job allows you to create connections, which is a key to success.
I love my job and as I tell my younger colleagues, this job has to be a passion. When you live your passion, you spend a lot of time in your work place. And as it is a passion, I don’t think this is a disadvantage. So far, I have not found any disadvantages at all!
What was the most challenging task you received from a hotel guest you could execute? Do you reject certain orders as well?
In winter 2009, one of our guests wanted me to arrange a picnic somewhere in the mountains with a nice view, something “original”. I found a mountain refuge, facing the Mont Blanc at 3000 meters altitude. Handling the logistics was the most challenging thing in organizing the picnic. The funny thing is, that the refuge was only accessible by helicopter!
The gourmet break I arranged was an Indian picnic, thanks to our Indian fine dining restaurant. And finally, we decided to decorate the refuge in order to create an “Indian” atmosphere up in the mountains.
Of course, we refuse certain orders. Illegal, ethically irresponsible requests cannot be accepted by a concierge. I have no problems to explain the guests, why. It is important that the concierge has a clear communication with their clients.
Did you have any influential experiences with a special car of a guest?
In some occasions, I had the opportunity to ship cars back to their original countries like the USA, Croatia and some places in the Middle East, for example. All those cars were quite exclusive (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche etc.). But once, I took care of one of the first models of the VW New Beetle, which was a collector’s car. For the guest, it was one of the most important things in his life!
Have you seen the movie «The Grand Budapest Hotel»? What do you think of it?
Yes, I did. It is a good picture of our job a few years ago… I would have loved to be a concierge 30 or 50 years ago to experience my job in a different way. There was a genuine trust between guests and concierges in the past. This bond has been affected over the years.
How do you envision the concierge profession in 50 years? What will change?
As I mentioned previously, the concierge profession has changed significantly over the last ten years. I am sure that it is going to evolve permanently. Which technology will be used in hotels in 50 years? I don’t know, but I am convinced that the concierge will remain the privileged contact to hotel guests. He will simply use new technologies to communicate with the clients.
Of course, technology kills the human factor to a certain degree. But you cannot replace the concierge by an information desk with a touch screen. Nevertheless, technology should be used to improve the quality of guest services!