Meet the Team: Rob Shorter
Each month, we interview one of our team here at the Royal Garden Hotel. Next up, it’s Head Concierge Rob Shorter…
Joining the hotel industry over 30 years ago, Rob started out as a page boy before progressing to his current role at the hotel as Head Concierge. He spoke to us about some unusual requests he has received over the years and what makes the Royal Garden Hotel different to the rest…
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT THE HOTEL?
I am Head Concierge, which basically involves looking after guests and whatever needs they have, whether it is theatre tickets, airline tickets or restaurants. Whatever the guests need, I try to provide that service.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN YOUR ROLE?
I was at The Four Seasons for nearly 20 years before moving to my current role, where I’ve been for 10 years now. I come into work every day and I know it's one of those clichés, but I always have a smile on my face because every day is always different.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY?
I started off in 1984 as a page boy at The Intercontinental on Hyde Park Corner. It came about mainly because my father was in the industry as well so I didn't know if I was going to like the job. I started working there thinking “Well, I've got to wear a uniform, I’m not sure if I’m going to like this” but after about two or three weeks, I started realising I liked to interact with people. I started seeing so many different people and going "Wow, look at him, he's famous," as you do as a 16 or 17-year-old. And then all of a sudden, you start thinking, “I might like this here” and one month goes, two months ago, three months ago. After a year and a half of doing that job I was asked by the head concierge if I would be interested in doing a concierge role and I said: "Yeah, why not?"
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE HOTEL?
When I first started, I thought “Wow, this is big.” And it is a very, very big hotel. The Intercontinental is about the same size but it just seems a lot bigger than The Intercontinental. That was my first impression, and my next thought was how professional the hotel was. The first general manager I worked under was really old school and the hotel was run in such a good way that I thought I was going to enjoy it. You could tell the hotel had a vibe about it, everyone was smiling and everyone was happy. You're looking at other staff as you walk past and as they all had a smile on their face, you know something must be a little bit special about this place. That was my main first impression, that everyone seemed to be quite happy here. It was a great advert for the hotel, to be honest.
WHAT IS A USUAL DAY LIKE AT THE HOTEL?
On a standard day, I would come in between eight and nine o'clock, depending on how busy we are. I would have a look around the lobby to make sure that everything looks right because otherwise, a general manager will probably take notice if something looks amiss. I always have a chat with the doormen, first of all, ask how they are and generally take a moment to chat with the staff, the luggage porters and the concierge as well. Once I've done that, I have a look if there's been any issues or anything we have to deal with. Guests often give us requests to either go shopping for them or book restaurants, whatever they may want. We have a book that basically tells us what we have to do for guests on that day. I would then go through all my emails and check which ones I have to prioritise first. After that, I come out into the lobby, start greeting a few of our guests and try to see if I can spot any of our regulars. One thing we really try to do is look after and recognise our guests. You know, greeting them by their name, asking how they are and having a little bit of a conversation with them. It’s all part of the job.
WHAT MAKES THIS HOTEL DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS?
Again, it's that family, caring attitude – everyone is cared for. People are given empowerment to do their jobs and to make decisions. I think sometimes in some of the other big chain hotels, you are restricted in what you can say and what you can do so you're not as empowered as you are here.
It is a very family-friendly sort of atmosphere and that goes for every department, whether you're working with housekeepers, reception, marketing, it's one big family and you have great camaraderie between everyone.
HAVE YOU HAD ANY INTERESTING REQUESTS FROM GUESTS THAT STAND OUT?
We have had lots of unusual requests by guests over the years. Sometimes it's to courier things – for example, we once had a guest who wanted to transport his Peregrine falcon back to his home in Saudi Arabia – which obviously has a lot of implications with customs etc., so there are so many things that are involved before you can say "Yes, we can do this." But we found a way of doing it and we reunited the guest with their falcon in Saudi!
I think you always have to put yourself in the guest’s head. So if the guests ask you for something, how can you make it work, how can you make sure they get the tailored service that they require and are they going to be happy with it.
YOU MUST HAVE COME ACROSS A LOT OF HIGH-PROFILE GUESTS OVER THE YEARS?
Yes, I must admit that The Royal Garden, out of all the hotels that I've worked in, has the most really high-profile guests. I think the great thing about this hotel is we treat them as guests. We let them do what they want to do, they feel comfortable and they feel this is home because no one fusses. A lot of people, particularly if they're famous, they don't want any hassle. They just want to be left alone. They will come to you if they want something and if they don't, then you just leave them to do what they want to do. I think that's why a lot of them to come back because they are treated in that way.
WHAT ARE THE KEY SKILLS YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO DO YOUR JOB?
You need to know London very well, like a taxi driver. You need to know the streets, you need to know the areas of London, the top restaurants, you need to have contacts. One of the things about being a concierge is that you need to have contacts throughout the industry. It could be for theatres, it could be exhibitions or it could be museums. Guests might want a private viewing – so it would help with these sorts of things. It's all about your contacts, your knowledge of London and having an open personality.
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO GUESTS IN THIS AREA?
The first thing I would say is Kensington Palace, that is an absolute no-brainer – it's so close. You've also got the Orangery, which is a fabulous place to go for afternoon tea. It’s especially beautiful in the summer. We're also very close to three major museums – the Victoria & Albert, Natural History and Science museums. There’s also the Design Museum on the other side of Kensington High Street. It's only been open for two years but is getting increasingly popular. Restaurant-wise, we would always opt for our local restaurants. There is a fabulous one just up on the high street called Il Portico which has been here since the Sixties. We are also very close to all the antique shops on Church Street and Portobello Road as well. There's such a good choice. We really do have a lot around the hotel so guests never really need to leave the area.
WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO AWAY FROM THE HOTEL?
I do quite a lot of running. We have Kensington Gardens just next door so myself and one or two of the managers may go for a run before work. We've done a 10K and are possibly looking at doing either a half or a full marathon in the next year or so. I also try to look after my 17-year-old daughter which is a big challenge, especially at her age!