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How to Most Effectively Use Your Hotel Concierge (for Food)

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
June 25, 2014

Photo credit: Home Alone 2

Reminder! Concierges exist and they can do all sorts of stuff for you.

“Older generations are very comfortable talking to concierges,” says Lisa Gill, a former editor at Condé Nast Traveler. “But the younger Gen X and Gen Y and millennials seem to have forgotten about them.”

Don’t do that! “Their services are already built into the price of the room, so you’re already paying for it.” So use them. Here’s how.

It’s not just about dinner reservations. Picnics in the park, pizza-making classes, pop-up dinners—there are many food-related activities beyond those that happen in restaurants that concierges can cue up for you. “They’re tuned into everything culinary,” says Abbie Newman, co-owner of Abigail Michaels, a concierge firm, and a veteran concierge herself. “They’re out and about, they read everything, they very much have their fingers on the pulse.”

Dietary restrictions? Check. Sometimes “guests ask for special items to be in the room before they arrive,” says Tim Cunningham, Hotel Ambassador for the Sunset Tower in Los Angeles. Things like “coconut water and 2% cottage cheese” and gluten-free items are becoming more popular, he says. But it’s not just about restrictions. “Part of being a five-star hotel is having personalized service,” says Gill, so they ought to be able to have fresh-cut durian in your fridge when you arrive if you that’s what you want. Non five-star properties might not be able to do the same thing—“they’re better at removing things than finding them,” says Gill—but you can certainly request that soda or wine be omitted from the minibar if you should so require. Point being: You don’t have to be J Lo to personalize the contents of your room.

Extra fridge space is included. “Sometimes you need a larger fridge for milk, if you’re traveling with kids,” says Gill. “They generally don’t want to say ‘no’—they’re trained not to say ‘no’—so always ask.”

Monogamy is key. “Stay with one concierge,” says Cunningham. In other words, unless the task is of the utmost urgency, don’t call John five minutes after you’ve called Marie to see if he can get the job done faster. “It is easier for them to complete the task” that way, he says.

There is no need to ever suffer from airline food again. Gill says that asking the concierge to package a meal for your trip to the airport is totally reasonable. Eat it, sleep on the plane, done. No re-warmed, frozen chicken “à la King” for you.

Think of concierges as event planners, too. “If you’re planning to propose and you want the whole thing set up from beginning to end—the chocolates from Jacques Torres, the flowers from the best place, et cetera—the concierge can connect all the dots,” says Gill. “They’re there to source things for you.”

You can use the concierge even when you’re not staying at the hotel. Travel expert Wendy Perrin wrote: ”Be up front about the fact that you’re not a guest—but so charming and friendly that he can’t resist helping you—and be sure to tip.”

Speaking of which, yes, you tip the concierge. “Twenty dollars for a dinner reservation is standard, however, more is always appropriate if the concierge has organized your entire stay,” says Newman. “In this event, upwards of $20 is standard depending on the range of services rendered.”

When in doubt, just ask. “I’ve been asked to do the impossible so many times it just comes naturally to me now,” says Cunningham. So don’t be embarrassed to dream big: Request a seat at the skybox at Daniel. The worst that can happen is, well, nothing. Maybe the concierge can’t complete the task in the end, but no one’s judging, here, so you might as well try. “If you know to ask, we know how to make it happen,” says Newman. And as Cunningham puts it: “The word ‘no’ should never exist.”

Actually, there are a few cases in which ‘no’ exists. Things you shouldn’t expect a concierge to do, according to Cunningham: “Get drugs for a guest. Get a call girl for a guest. Lie to a spouse for another one.” So, yeah. Remember that.