. The New Order of Concierges | Meetings & Conventions

The New Order of Concierges

The evolution of the profession benefits planners looking to wow VIPs

When VIPs travel to meetings, they often come with high-level requests for hot tickets or reservations at trendy restaurants. If you’re at a five-star property, the go-to person just might be standing behind a counter in the lobby: a concierge whose lapel sports the crossed golden keys of Les Clefs D’or (www.lcdusa.org), an exclusive international concierge association. But planners no longer have to be at a top luxury hotel to get such exemplary service, and they don’t necessarily have to look for that label.
     Although they do bear a genetic tie to the traditional Clefs D’or, a new group of independent concierges has evolved, catering to businesses and individuals. Procuring hot tickets and tables are the stereotypical example of what concierges-for-hire can do; they actually are prepared to fulfill just about any legal request that a planner doesn’t have the time or resources to accomplish.
     This breed is similar to the traditional concierge. They have the extensive connections to make the impossible possible. The big difference: These concierges are independent business people who charge clients for their services; or the businesses are set up as member organizations, fulfilling requests for anyone who pays the dues to join. Some even offer customer-loyalty programs. Several concierge organizations are international in scope, invaluable for planners with global requests, and still others are available 24 hours a day and offer their clients emergency hotlines.

One of the oldest independent companies of this sort is San Francisco-based Les Concierges (www.lesconcierges.com), offering personal assistance to millions of subscribers. CEO/co-founder Linda Jenkins takes event planning so seriously she has several certified meeting professionals on staff, some even working on location in the offices of select corporate clients such as Lockheed Martin.
     Membership starts at $99 a month. Les Concierges’ services range from shopping, gift wrapping and house cleaning to acquiring tickets and planning events.
     International requests are the bailiwick of Quintessentially (www.quintessentially.com), a London-based firm that calls itself a club. Annual membership costs £650 (about $1,150 at press time).
     Access is the key to fulfilling members’ desires, says Caroline Homlish, an event manager for Quintessentially. “We know what the newest, hippest, hottest thing is,” she says. The club offers services in many areas, promising exclusive entrance into private nightclubs, offering spa deals, and arranging tickets or play at top sporting venues.
     To Steve Sims, CEO of The Blue Fish (www.thebluefish.com), based in Delray Beach, Fla., “The definition of concierge is a supplier of other people’s products.” Sims’ company charges per service. Among its many offerings, The Blue Fish sets up unique travel experiences (shark diving off Cape Town, anyone?), arranges rentals of exotic cars and sends clients backstage at concerts.
     Over-the-top exclusive is the province of MintLA (www.mintla.com), based (where else?) in Los Angeles and whose annual fee is $12,000. Membership is limited to 200 in each city the firm serves (MintLA also has offices in Chicago, London, Miami and New York City).
     Co-founders and brothers Gordon and Steven McGeachy say they can make the impossible happen on an hourly basis. “We keep our eyes open and our mouths closed,” says Gordon. MintLA can take care of everything from the basics, such as delivering flowers or groceries, to the complicated, like arranging a private jet to bring in a VIP at a moment’s notice.