The Concierge Magazine’s Exclusive Interview with Ryan Lettier
Les Clefs d’Or USA member and Concierge at Kimpton’s Hotel Vintage Portland
We produce beautiful bespoke magazines for the world’s leading hotels, meaning we work closely with these hotel’s Concierge Teams to ensure our readers get only the very best recommendations as to where to go and what to do when they are ready to explore. Our relationship with the preeminent Concierge organization Les Clefs d’Or allows us to find out everything you could want to know about these celebrated individuals.
Here we speak with Ryan Lettier to find out about his journey to becoming a celebrated Les Clefs d’Or member and discover what it takes to become a true Les Clefs d’Or Concierge, where anything is possible…
1. When did you decide to become a concierge and how did you start?
This year marks my 14th year in the hospitality industry. I remember when I was still a front desk agent (at the Hotel Monaco, Chicago) being fascinated by what our concierges did, fixated on how they operated day in and day out. On most days the concierges would be at their desks with two phones up to their ears while typing away. One day I enquired what the gold keys on their lapels meant and how they acquired them. As time passed, my general manager asked if I would be interested in seeking a position as a concierge. Obviously I said “yes!” Fortunately for me, I got to work under one of the finest, most experienced concierges in the city. Almost overnight I was hooked! I knew this work was my calling.
I found out that being a great concierge goes far beyond your scheduled shift. To truly be in the know and to be able to essentially perform magic-tricks for your guests, you need to be on the job morning noon and night, attending every event available in your city, visiting every new restaurant, reading newspaper reviews daily, etc. I often say being a great concierge is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. And so you never “clock out.” You are always working, but it is a labor of love.
2. How long have you been a member of Les Clefs d’Or? Why is that organization so special to you?
I became a member of Les Clefs d’Or three years ago while living in Chicago. It was one of the proudest days of my life. It is not an easy process, obtaining one’s keys! Oddly enough, each time I put those gold keys on my lapels, I am not reminded how hard I had to work to earn them. I am instead encouraged that I truly have what it takes to meet my clients’ needs. Membership continually boosts one’s confidence!
The Les Clefs d’Or organization insures that each of its members upholds the highest level of service standards in the hospitality industry. Importantly, membership also puts me in contact with all other members of the organization, giving me access to the best concierges in the business. Being able to consult with a fellow member on a moment’s notice, to help a client, is an amazing resource.
3. What is the advantage of speaking to a concierge over searching the Internet?
I get asked a lot about how technology has changed the job I do. The truth is, it hasn’t. You would think that my job would be obsolete in the age of smart phones. “Who needs to ask a concierge about the newest and trendiest place in town, when I can just look it up myself?”
But what apps and the internet can’t give you, and what the concierge can, is that human connection, and personal analysis. It is the concierge who truly knows what is “trending” in his or her city. It is the concierge who elicits invaluable feedback from guests. Clients will often find what looks to be a cool spot on their phones, but until they stop and ask the concierge “have you been there too, or have you heard of,” they can never be sure their money will be well spent. I’ve learned that guests very quickly learn to trust the concierge’s judgment.
4. What do you enjoy most about being a concierge?
The best part of my job as a concierge is meeting so many incredible people. On any given day I can meet a person from Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America, a major city on the east coast, or a small town in Wisconsin. My job brings the world to me. I am able to connect with people from all walks of life, each with a different story to tell, each with a unique reason for visiting my city. If you are inquisitive by nature, this job is fascinating.
5. What is the strangest request ever received from a guest?
While a concierge in the heart of downtown Chicago, I was asked by a farmer guest if I could ship his new tractor to Ireland. I could, and I did!
6. What’s your favorite guest request ever?
Truthfully, my favorite requests are not single requests. Instead they are requests from guests to plan a series of events for them. My favorite ones? Helping a guest plan the ideal evening to “pop the question.” A concierge has to be well informed on romance! Most often, the requests are to plan a special day, or even an entire week, to help a guest surprise a loved one with a birthday or anniversary celebration. Recently I had a husband approach me, frantic that, aside from booking their hotel room, he had nothing prepared for his wife’s birthday.
Within 60 minutes, I called in a few favors to local restaurants for each night of their visit, booked a couple’s massage, set up a private car for a day trip to the Columbia River Gorge, a second private day trip to wine country, and of course had birthday treats and some bubbly waiting for her after dinner on her actual birthday. These are basic activities for the concierge. But we are often required to perform them very quickly. And, of course, on a moment’s notice we have to suggest activities/itineraries that are both do-able and imaginative. That’s the real challenge.
7. How would you spend your ideal day off?
I like to think a great concierge never really takes a day off. Even when you’re not at work, you have to be out in your community, exploring every corner of it. I do enjoy spending my days off waking up early and hitting one of the many local coffee roasters in Portland. Then, after walking and browsing for a while, I enjoy heading off to one of my favorite places for brunch. (A concierge is never at a loss over where to find just the right meal!)
I also have a love of photography and art, so on a nice day, I enjoy peeking into art galleries, exploring Portland’s ever increasing street art, and taking photos, most often architectural ones. Capturing Portland by camera is another way to truly get to know it.
8. How can a guest best use the concierge services to their full potential?
As concierges, we are like ambassadors for our cities. We know its places and its people. Guests who use the concierge regularly know this, and take advantage of our expertise. Typically we begin communicating with such guests weeks before their arrival. Whenever possible, I appreciate communicating with my guests well beforehand. This gives me the opportunity to determine their precise needs, and gives me time to tailor a unique visit for them.
Once the guest arrives on property, we then have the chance to interact face to face, to finalize what I have set up for them. Spending countless hours designing itineraries for guests, and communicating with them often, usually leads to our becoming truly well acquainted. Some wonderful friendships are formed this way. And, of course, the better I know a guest, the better I can serve them and anticipate their needs.
Greydoor Publishing work closely with Les Clefs d’Or to produce The Concierge Magazine for their member propertie, the leading hotels of the world. Take a look at our Concierge Magazine for Kimpton’s Hotel Vintage Portland to hear more from Ryan and everything great about the Hotel and Portland.