Fawlty icon inspires Wharf concierge


Who inspires London's concierge of the year?

It's not who you'd imagine.

In fact, it's probably the last person you'd imagine.

Fresh from scooping the prestigious award at the Park Lane Sheraton Hotel, Marriott West India Quay assistant head concierge Toru Machida revealed he was lured into hotel management by goose-stepping TV waiter-baiter Basil Fawlty.

The Tokyo-born award-winner said: "I didn't speak very good English when I arrived, so I learned by watching comedies such as Fawlty Towers.

"I didn't know anything about hotel work before, but after watching it I was tempted into the industry. Basil does ridiculous things, but he really just wants to make things right for the guests, and that's what we try to do every day. He's still a big hero of mine."

Toru completed a placement at the Kensington Forum hotel during his hotel management course at Middlesex University, and was employed in the housekeeping department of Canary Wharf's Four Seasons in 2002. It was there that he was drafted into the concierge department as a luggage porter, and had progressed to concierge clerk when he heard of a new hotel opening in West India Quay in 2004.

He joined in time for the Marriott's opening in June, and by 2005 had been promoted to assistant head concierge. He has since been accepted into the Society of the Golden Keys, a group which helps foster link-ups within the international concierge fraternity.

He said: "As long as it's not illegal or immoral, we go the extra mile to help out. There's a limit to what one concierge can handle, which is the reason for the society.

"A couple of months ago a guest wanted a table at Zuma restaurant. It's one of the most difficult places to get a booking, and he gave me half an hour on a Friday night. I spoke to a friend at another hotel and he was good enough to help me out.

"Another time we had an Asian guest staying with us who was in the shipping industry, and he told me he had worked in the UK 30 years ago and had a friend who used to work in a major European corporate shipping company. All he could remember was that his name was Roy.

"I emailed the Baltic Exchange and two days later I had tracked down a few people matching the profile. He was living in Kent, so they were reunited. I got a letter two years later from the man saying Roy had passed away, and thanking me for reuniting two friends so they could spend the last two years together."

A good concierge needs to be organised, as the pair on duty usually receive around 100 requests a day, ranging from directions to the station to more complicated challenges.

Toru said: "If a guest has a challenging inquiry, I love it when they bring it to me. A concierge only becomes a great concierge thanks to their guests.

"If a guest asks me something I don't know, it gives me the opportunity to learn something and increase my knowledge in the future."