Matt, one of the longest-tenured concierges at Philly's Four Seasons Hotel, is responsible for the well-being and happiness of the whales who spend time in Philly, and often times is tasked with making the impossible possible in a moments notice. He was kind enough to chat us up about the craziest, most expensive, and most challenging requests of guests that have passed through the hotel during his ten year career at The Four Seasons.
So tell me about what you do as a concierge?
We do a little bit of everything. It's about keeping guests happy, being ready for them at all times, and most importantly, never saying "no" to them. The unspoken rule in the world of the concierge is "as long as it isn't illegal, immoral, or unethical, we'll do what we can to make it happen."
So have there been any recent requests you can think of that really demonstrate the life of a concierge?
Well, we just had a guest require an emergency vet visit in the middle of the night for her pooch, which we were able to accommodate. Oh, a wedding party required the tuxedo for the groom who forgot to pack it for the trip and only realized it at the very last minute, which we also were able to get done.
So in terms of whales, are you responsible for their travel, or getting them around?
Absolutely. Whether it's a solo traveler that needs transport from the airport to the hotel, or, we just had a family flying in on a private jet from the Middle East needed us to get them around, we are definitely charged with those situations. And in case their luggage arrives separately, we have to be ready to run and grab it, so in that case it was nothing more than a luggage van, but often times we have to get a Mercedes at the request of the client to get them around, as well.
Can you spot whales after being in the business so long?
It's not as easy as you would think. From time to time it's easy, but really, you let the guest come to you with the request before you ever make an assumption about anyone. Most people are direct, but some are very cryptic, and it just takes some time to figure these little hints out. Nowadays traveling in jacket and tie just doesn't happen that often, so picking folks out by dress isn't a good way to do it. And, with young people being wealthy because of technology and those sort of situations, it's better never to make assupmtions.
Where are people getting reservations the most these days?
Here in Philly we see most people ask for the Iron Chef restaurants by name, they love it. The Jose Garces restaurants, like Tinto is very popular. And Amada. And of course Morimoto still is high on everyone's list. Stephen Starr is of course at the top, too, and Barclay Prime is probably the highest on the list there. Of course, The Fountain here in the hotel is fantastic, and very popular. I would be remiss not to mention that.
Travelers are very educated, too, on the small elegant restaurants that Philly offers. While everyone knows about the cavernous restaurants in NYC, we have these tiny places with just a few tables, and that's very Philadelphia. People absolutely love that.
So, could you name the top reservations?
Surprisingly, Buddakan is still at the top even after all of these years. It's been here so very long, but everyone still asks for Buddakan. After Buddakan is Amada, with Jose being all over the Food Network. And then Vetri. The new hot restaurant is Vernick, which is apparently getting lots of attention nationally, and everyone asks about it.
Do people ever ask about the club scene?
No. Besides G Lounge, which we don't get asked about often anymore and Whisper on Walnut Street. We get more lounge requests. Guests love Alma De Cuba, and even Parc, which has a very lounge feel after dark. The Rittenhouse Square really is where the late night crowd goes, but it's not clubby at all.
So, what are some of the outlandish requests you've gotten?
Hmmm. One of the most unique was a guest needed to have 12 green bananas in their room. Not brown or yellow, but needed to be green, and there needed to be 12. That was odd. Someone specifically requested 24 bags of Colombian-roasted coffee with the words "Roasted in Colombia" on the bag.
One person was trying to propose and wanted to plan to have the ring sitting at the bottom of the pool, whch was tough to coordinate. Especially with the drainage and whatnot. There are always last minute sewing issues and tailor talents. Having that skillset as a concierge is important. I had to sew a woman into her shoes once. That was tough.
What was one of the most expensive requests you've had here?
Someone needed a last minute private jet to fly to an East Coast city, and that ran around $5,800. So, it was a charter, and pretty exorbitant.
Are there any impossible reservations?
Vetri. You need to book in advance, as they only have a few tables. But, Vetri's people are always fantastic about squeezing people in. They work well with us.
Was ther ever a request that you just couldn't get done?
Someone requested a bunch of live animals for a theme meeting. Exotic live animals. It required permits that we just couldn't do, and well, it was just impossible.
What was the longest stay that you've had at the Four Seasons?
Since I've been here, a guest stayed with us for a year and a half once. Yeah, that was the longest.
How has Philadelphia changed in terms of tourist culture with the whales over the last decade?
Surprisingly only recently has Philly gotten its act together with the historic stuff. It was so unorganized for so, so long. But, they've gotten a good handle on that now. And the art scene has shifted in recent months. We've always had the PMA, which is amazing, but now the Barnes Foundation is downtown, and the revamped Rodin museum. It's a very important area for the art community as a whole, and has become a really big part of tourism downtown, and a mecca for art travelers.
The restaurant world as a whole has completely changed in the last five years, and we've taken a big step forward in the food world.