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Interview with Daniel Bethel, Winner of The London Award

After winning The London Award at The Society of the Golden Keys of Great Britain & the Commonwealth Awards 2023, Daniel gives us an insight into his career so far.

Mikesh Palan, MD of Golden Tours, presents The London Award to concierge Daniel Bethel
Daniel Bethel receives his award from Mikesh Palan, Managing Director, Golden Tours
1. What does this mean to you on a personal level?

This award means the world to me. It's a career-affirming event that I have worked towards my entire career and, at times, seemed unobtainable. The Les Clefs d'Or has so many fantastic concierges of all ages and backgrounds, so to be considered worthy of such an award gives me an enormous sense of pride. My family and team are immensely proud of this achievement and that is what I'm most proud of.

Daniel is Senior Concierge at The Cadogan, a Belmond Hotel
2. Can you tell us about the career path that led to where you are today?

I started on a Government placement scheme at the Regent Park Marriott in Swiss Cottage as a porter back in 1996, aged 20. The placement was to be for three months, but I was there for a year. I knew from there it was what I wanted to do, I absolutely loved it. Then, in 1998, I was employed by the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, owned by Hyatt at the time, as page boy, delivering faxes and running errands. I did this for around a year before I progressed onto the desk. Once I started as a concierge, I knew it was where I belonged. From there I left to join The Cadogan - A Belmond Hotel, under the Head Concierge Stewardship of Toru Machida as a concierge and have since been promoted to senior concierge. This was the best career move of my life...

"To get to this stage of my career, coming from humble beginnings and suffering with dyslexia, to make it as a concierge, is a huge achievement."

3 Are there any specific mentors you've looked to for guidance, and how have they helped you on your journey?

There has been many concierges over the years that I have admired. Being a friendly and sociable society, I have had the opportunity to speak with all of them and have collected pieces of wisdom from the many of the amazing concierges who have led the way forward for the Society and also the new members who I speak to and who keep me current. My first real mentor was Richard Price, who taught me many things, including how to tie a bow tie. One of the many things he has taught me that have held me in great stead. Mentorship still continues to this day with the fantastic leadership of Toru Machida and Jamie McDowall. Along with Lee Hubbard, we are a fabulous team and, as a concierge, you do not stop learning daily.

Celebrating, from left to right: President of the Society of the Golden Keys, Toru Machinda; General Manager at The Cadogan, Xavier Lablaude; Daniel's Fiancee, Rebecca Liese; Senior Concierge at The Cadogan, Daniel Bethel; Reception Manager at The Cadogan, Silvia Siccardi; Guest Relations Manager at The Cadogan, Federica Burani and Assistant Head Concierge at The Cadogan, Jamie McDowell
4. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Obviously, the award far outweighs anything I have achieved as a concierge. However, to get to this stage of my career, coming from humble beginnings and suffering with dyslexia, to make it as a concierge, is a huge achievement. I left school with minimal low scoring academic results and set myself a target to be the best concierge I could be. Merely to be considered amongst the best concierge in London is an achievement I am hugely proud of.

5. Dealing with guests cannot always be easy; what's your approach to winning over difficult guests?

Dealing with challenging guests gets easier with time, as you become more compassionate and empathetic with experience. I remember in my earlier days, I would take it personally. Now I am more understanding and see these situations as an opportunity to get to know guests. Indeed, most of my guests and I have a deep relationship which has ultimately come from a challenging situation. Everyone just wants to be heard and understood and receive empathy and consideration. Once the issue has been removed and whatever issue has been dealt with, it creates the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship that can be built upon over time once you know the guests wants. Once you have solved the problem, you have the opportunity to create a guest for life.

6. What personal sacrifices have you had to make to become so successful in this field?

Too many to mention. Everything from birthdays to Christmases and Cup Finals to weddings. As a whole, the team are amazing with covering days off that are required, but occasionally an important day will come where you will have to take it on the chin for the sake of the team. Another example is my fiancée who is a deputy general manager and deserves a lot of credit for my success. She is amazing, we have been engaged for 6 years as we just have not got the time to arrange our wedding. That's hospitality.

7. What attributes do you think you possess that make you an award-winning concierge?

You have to think differently in regards to problem solving and be creative. I've been blessed with a creative mind and been able to think creatively to resolve issues. I've also listened to some fantastic advice from many people who have learned from this industry for many years and adapted it into style of my own. I'm also very stubborn. Not always a trait that is seen as positive, however, you have to create your own legend and do what's right for you. I'm humble enough to listen to good advice, but stubborn enough to know when to walk my own path.

Winners of the Concierge of the Year Awards 2023
Winners at the 2023 Awards, from L to R: Alan McDougall, Tom Wardley, Darren Winter, Toru Machida, Przemek Zaniat, Binoy Nair, Daniel Bethel

8. If you could give advice to concierge new to this profession, what would it be?

You have to realise that this is a vocation, not a job. A good concierge will never be 9-5 Monday to Friday. You have to live it daily. Work a shift and go to an event, wake up the next morning and go again. Put yourself in unfamiliar situations. If you have never been to the opera, go; you never know, you might like it. Talk to people at events, take a business card and email them the next day and create a contact, build up your support network and be in touch. Be kind, be helpful, you will only ever get out of this profession that which you put in. Assistance and advice is there in abundance, don't be afraid to ask for help.

"I'm humble enough to listen to good advice, but stubborn enough to know when to walk my own path."

9. What is the most rewarding thing about being a concierge?

Looking at yourself in the mirror after a hard day and knowing that you have done a great job. When the guest returns and says that was a great recommendation. Or when they have had a never-to-be-forgotten memorable experience, or solving what seems like an insurmountable problem. To know that you were in the background and that would never have happened without you is a humbling, but ultimately, a satisfying feeling. No matter how hard the day, when you know that you have made the difference.... you feel amazing.

10. Les Clefs d'Or's motto is 'service through friendship'; how important is collaboration with colleagues across the industry to you?

Service through friendship is at the heart of the Les Clefs d'Or. It's the epitome of what we do. We cannot be an expert in all fields. We do not all know all restaurants' general managers, but as a collective, we may. We succeed on the shoulders of those around us. But service through friendship should extend into all aspects of our working life. It's a tool we use to create a positive working environment with our front and back of house teams, as well as external restaurant receptionists and suppliers. Everyone wants to help someone who has previously helped them. It's natural. Things are made easier if you are smiling.


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