Backstage Travel: No 1 - the concierge

Never off duty – the Mr Fixit of the hospitality world

Ben Malpass is head concierge at the Savoy, London.

He wears a secret-service-style earpiece and a dark suit. He has contacts all over London and he'll go to extreme lengths to spend your money, should you wish. There's something rather cloak and dagger about the job of a hotel concierge.

Ben Malpass admits it's tough trying to meet the demands of guests at the 268-room Savoy. "We are given the task to just get it done. Don't break the law, obviously, but the priority is to keep the guest happy. We will go to extraordinary lengths to get guest requests satisfied."

The term concierge derives from the Latin conservus, meaning "fellow slave", and indeed a concierge's function is to serve guests free of charge (if you don't count the room rate and tips). The concierge will facilitate whatever a guest wants – and in the luxury market that means far more than a table at a top restaurant or tickets to a sold-out show.

Malpass, who leads a team of about 30 staff at the Savoy – including porters, doormen and seven concierges – aims to provide "unrivalled access" to all that London offers, achieved through intimate knowledge of the city and abundant personal contacts. For guests with money to spend and time to play with, he's essential – if you want an exclusive 16-day itinerary, with a private view of the Crown Jewels, he's your man.

Since joining the Savoy in 2010, the 37-year-old has sourced an authentic Roman legionary's helmet from Wales for a guest who wanted it shipped to his office in Bermuda; arranged the purchase of a £140,000 handbag in Mayfair; and sealed the deal on a £300,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

More than half the Savoy's guests use the service – and this high figure is due to the number visiting for pleasure, not business, says Malpass, who has spent 16 years on concierge desks in London. And work doesn't just start when a guest checks in. The Savoy receives about 100 emails a day detailing the demands of future clients.

The legwork required to fulfil requests happens very discreetly – an "organised chaos" lurks beneath the concierge's unruffled exterior. It's a high-stress job that never stops; when he's not on duty (generally from 7am to 7pm) Malpass is out vetting London's latest hot spot. Occasionally he even sleeps at the hotel to ensure uninterrupted service. "I've taken one of the richest men on Earth for a walk around London at 3am because he fancied a walk. Not for 59 minutes, not for 61; he wanted to walk for 60 minutes, and he made that very clear."

"It's not a job, it's a way of life," he adds. "It is bonkers."

Suggested Topics
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss