The evidence: The concierge's work station

Alex Serra is concierge at the Athenaeum Hotel in Piccadilly, London

"Our main tool here is ourselves, our knowledge of London and the personal relationships we build up with guests. You have to know everything from the price of a registered letter to all the restaurants and clubs. I suppose we must hand out about 50 or 60 maps (1) of London a week, which are printed for the hotel. Most of them probably go in the bin outside the door, but the remainder find their way all over the world, which is a good advertisement. A lot of people like to get out of London at the weekends, so we also have maps of surrounding areas (2) and, of course, information about open- top bus tours (3) around London. We are only able to use the computer (4) to find out what rooms people are in - that's it, we can't enter any information, that's left up to the reservations desk. We get new copies of airline and rail timetables (5) every month in case people need to change their travel arrangements. My red book (6) contains all my really important numbers. I'm constantly on the telephone (7), either booking things or getting calls from all over the world. People will call in advance to say that they would like tickets for a particular show or to book a particular restaurant, reservations which I keep in my blue book (8). Everyone must read the same magazines in America as they all want to eat at The Ivy or Le Caprice."

Interview by Aoife O'Riordain

Photograph by Claudia Janke