Tom Bell is Chef Concierge at SIXTY Hotels and a rising star in New York City’s concierge community.
Tom studied Economics and Art History at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and began his career in hospitality shortly after graduation, as a Front Desk Agent at the Gramercy Park Hotel (where he was quickly promoted to Assistant Front Office Manager). It wasn’t long before Tom stepped into the concierge role and quickly rose to Chef Concierge - a position he held at a string of New York City’s most prestigious hotels, and currently holds at SIXTY. When he isn’t working, socializing or going out, he spends his time as an advisor to Concierge Anonymous, helping mentor and guide a new generation of NYC guest service professionals. Here is how he manages to get it all done.
Trick #1: Start with the basics.
Spending the day on your feet, assisting guests can be very stressful-both physically and psychologically. Early on in his career, Tom learned the importance of treating your mind and body right from the very beginning. He starts the day with a good breakfast (oatmeal, coffee, and protein), drinks lots of water to stay hydrated, and using an anti-fatigue mat to take pressure off from his lower back from standing on a marble floor all day. There’s no room for getting hangry in this business.
Trick #2: Treat the city like your playground.
As a concierge, it’s Tom’s job to know about every restaurant opening, broadway show, happy hour, DJ set, in one of the busiest cities on the planet. How does he do this? He is always reading food blogs and events publications like Eater, Tasting table, Thrillist, NYT Review, Food & Wine, Village Voice, and Urban Daddy, but he also goes out a lot.
“You think you know about everything, but then your guests come up with very specific questions and you realize that you don’t know as much as you think you do. That’s when I started to embrace the role, go to events, cocktail events at restaurants, broadway shows, get to know the city, concierge community, people that you can reach out to if you have questions…,” he explains about coming into his own as concierge.
Whether it’s a quick neighborhood stroll during lunch or an all night bender, he is always on the lookout for new experiences. And when guests ask for recommendations, Tom likes to give them his own guide (if they’re in Seattle), which he wrote while working as an Insider for W Seattle, or, if they’re in New York, the Davler City Guide, Where Magazine or Time Out.
Trick #3: Never underestimate the importance of team building.
For Tom, the hardest part of his job is the human element - managing his colleagues. “You can only do so much to motivate other concierges,” he says, “so team-building activities are important.” Tom says it helps to go to events as a group away from the hotel, as well as to take a genuine interest in his colleagues personal lives. The personal relationships Tom has built with his teams over the years has allowed him to build the necessary support from his staff to satisfy the kinds of crazy guest requests that require a lot of staff coordination.
Trick #4: Use technology as your ally..
Over the years, Tom has come to rely on tracking systems to keep him and his team in check. He always consults the calendar a few days in advance, and pays attention to details. “When the guest calls to follow up on a request and it’s not logged into the system or wasn’t completed, I get frustrated because it appears that my team didn’t handle the initial request properly,” he says, “so I do everything I can to stay ahead of the game. At the end of the day, the guest doesn't care about excuses, they just want to make sure they get what they want.”
[Editor’s note: It’s very hard for us to resist talking about the benefits of ALICE here.]
Trick #5: Don’t be afraid to take what you want.
When Tom assumed his first Concierge role at Gansevoort Park Avenue, he noticed opportunities for improvement within the Concierge Department. So, he approached the General Manager with solutions. And after a few months of noticeable change, Tom assumed a leadership role and was promoted to Chef Concierge.
As he became more comfortable in his role as Chef Concierge, Tom also started to contribute his knowledge to major city publications, becoming eligible for the NYCAHC and the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or. Today, Tom is among the youngest of a select group of elite Concierges in NYC. Most recently, Tom joined our Concierge Advisory Board at ALICE, where we’re using his insights to help build a tool that is transforming how concierge and front office departments can use technology to manage their day.