Sunday 25 September 2016

Robbie Smyth of Powerscourt: We had Robbie and Claudine Keane's wedding and Rosanna Davison had one of her three weddings here

Robbie Smyth (38) is chief concierge and guest-relations manager at the Powerscourt Hotel in Co Wicklow. He is also secretary of Les Clefs d'Or. From Glasthule, he lives in Bray, Co Wicklow, with his wife, Helen, and their daughter, Olivia (13 months)

Ciara Dwyer

Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30

Robbie Smyth is cheered up once he drives into the grounds of Powerscourt Hotel. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Robbie Smyth is cheered up once he drives into the grounds of Powerscourt Hotel. Photo: Gerry Mooney

I get up in the morning when the baby wakes up, usually around 5.30am. Our daughter, Olivia, is almost 13 months, and she's been in a separate room since she was six weeks old. Luckily enough, we have friends who had babies before us and they coached us. They told us to put her in her own room and stay away. We did just that, and there's not a bother on her. We put her down at 7pm and she won't stir until 5.30am. My wife Helen and I take it in turns to go into her in the morning. Helen works from early morning, three days a week. We give Olivia a bottle, she has a giggle, and then she goes down again until 9am. She's our first child and so much fun.

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Even though I don't sleep well at night, I can be a morning person. I have my shower, and after that I might have Weetabix for breakfast. Then I go into work in the Powerscourt Hotel. I live 10 minutes away in Bray. The odd time, I might have left the house in bad form, but the minute I drive down the avenue with all the trees leading up to the hotel, I'm calm. It's magnificent. The only stressful thing is, that on a beautiful day, I see all the people playing golf and I wish I was out there with them. I got a new set of sticks, but I haven't used them much. I work five days a week. I either do the 7am to 3.30pm shift, or 3pm until 11.30pm. I'm the guest-relations manager and the chief concierge.

When I get into work, I put on my uniform with my Clefs d'Or badge, which represents a society of concierges. To be in it, you have to be a concierge in a four- or five-star property and have at least three years' experience. It's a great society to be in because it makes my job easier, with all the contacts. We're in a group text and we all help each other.

For example, if a concert is sold out, and a guest wants tickets, we will get them. Concierges don't say no. The aim is that everything is doable and nothing is impossible. It's all about keeping the guests happy.

It's important to be well-groomed for work, because you're the first person that the guest sees when they walk in the door. So, the shoes are polished and I'm freshly shaved. The first thing I do is the pass-over with the night manager. Then every staff member gets a piece of paper called The Tribune, which tells how many people are in the house - the number of check-outs and check-ins, what's on, and if there will be any VIPs coming in that day. Then we get a quote of the day to motivate the staff. After that, I open up the computer and check the emails. I help a lot of guests plan their holiday. It's really important to listen to them and help them find something suitable. For example, if some American guests have arrived in jet-lagged, they won't want to be getting up at 5am the next day to go on a trip. You have to be practical.

A lot of men bring their girlfriends here to propose to them. When I'm helping the man plan it, I tell him not to worry, that I haven't had a 'no' yet. One gentleman wanted to bring his girlfriend to Bali to propose, but he couldn't get the time off work, so he planned to bring her to the Powerscourt Hotel instead. He told me that she loved the hotel, but then I got thinking. I suggested to him that we turn one of the private suites in our spa into Bali. We brought in some sand, some tropical trees and organised lighting and the sound of waves. She walked in, thinking she was going in for her spa treatments, and instead, there he was with the ring.

They ended up having their wedding here too. We get a lot of weddings here. Robbie and Claudine Keane were married here, and Rosanna Davison had one of her three weddings to Wes here.

During the day, I'll have lunch in our canteen, which we call the hub. The one rule there is that you are not allowed to talk shop. We often talk about football. I support Everton. For my birthday, my wife bought me a present of tickets for a match and the flight, but she got the dates wrong. She says that it's a nightmare organising surprises for me, because when I do anything it's always the best. And she's right, but it's my job.

I've been a concierge for 22 years and I love it. I left school early and I started off working in a tyre garage. It was damp and cold and filthy, and I hated it. Then I applied for a job as a porter in the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney. That turned into concierge, and it grew and grew. I've done my bit cleaning toilets, cleaning up puke, delivering trays for breakfast and bar service, so I know how hotels are run.

Paddy Fitzpatrick was such a lovely man, and he taught me that you give everybody the special treatment. It's important to meet and greet everybody the same way. Someone might walk in wearing hiking boots, but then you could find out that that person is a multi-millionaire. You just don't know.

I always make it my business to find out the guests' names and I call them by name all the time. I address them by their full title unless they say otherwise. Everybody knows when I'm working, because you'll hear me laughing or asking a guest if they enjoyed their day-trip. People trust my recommendations, so if there is a problem, I need to know. Then I'll deal with it.

I never leave work when my shift is over and Helen finally understands this. If I need to be with a guest for an hour, that's not a problem. A good concierge always has time. But I like to be home in time so that I can have a cuddle with the baby before bedtime. I knock on the door and she crawls out to me. She's so cute. Then I catch up with Helen. I watch TV until I start to doze off. Helen is always giving out to me that I'm never off my phone, checking mails. But a guest may have lost their luggage and I might be trying to track it down. Work is always on my mind.

Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, tel: (01) 274-8888, or see powerscourthotel.com

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