Concierge Conundrum [moved from General Chowhounding Topics]
I stayed at two very high end resorts in New Mexico last week. I also live in NM and write about, where to eat in the state. I overheard countless bad recommendations about where to eat, coming from both concierges' lips. It seemd to me, like they had a list of "recomendations" since the same names kept coming up, no matter what the guest requested. One of them recommended a very pricey (and not very good) place to someone looking for a moderately priced local place. Neither of the concierges had ever heard of Chowhound and knew nothing about the local food scene.
In your experience, are hotel and resort staffs just clueless? (or perhaps just here in New Mexico)? Do you think, they're on the take, and give only tipped tips? What's your experience with hotel professionals around the world, when it comes to giving advice?
A friend that works in a hotel, told me that there is even a test that concieges are required to pass? Is this really true?
You'd think that a quality hotel would insist that their concierge staff be educated about the local restaurants they are surely asked to recommend regularly. I'm not so sure one should expect a 'review' from them (unless the review is backed up by fairly unanimous documentation), but they should have a good idea of price, atmosphere, dress code, menu...... the things people want to know.
I'm located in an area near three very high end hotels and I know for a fact that many of the local restaurants invite those concierge staffs to dine there as a way of becoming more familiar with them. There's also a local restaurant 'menu' magazine that organizes events where the concierge staffs 'network' with the restaurants that advertise in the mags.
All that said, I guess there can also be the case where a 'newby' is placed at the concierge desk without proper training or where specific restaurants do their "PR" work better than others and create an automatic recommendation that's not deserved.
I knew a former concierge who had worked at hotels in both NYC and LA. He always had free dinner certificates for expensive restaurants. When I asked how he managed to get them all, he said that the hotels had made deals with those places. If their concierges recommended those restaurants, they received free meals. And if someone at the resto wanted a place to stay, they recommended that hotel.
I rarely ever take restaurant recommendations from hotel staff. I was always under the assumption that restaurants and hotels are often in cahoots with each other and there are some sort of kickbacks involved.
I always do my homework on Chowhound and other food sites before we go away, and we (almost) always have good food. Even in nice hotels, I don't want to waste a meal on a recommendation from the concierge. I just don't trust them when it comes to food. My husband laughs at me, but he's also thankful when we have great food!
When in a foreign country, however, I will have them make reservations for us, but at restaurants that we have chosen.
I believe that some concierges and restaurants share a referral relationship. But, that doesn't mean that the referral will be bad. The best concierges I've ever enjoyed were at the Four Seasons in San Francisco. My cousin used to be a concierge at a five star hotel, many years ago, and she was tipped well because there was nothing she couldn't arrange, including parties.
I think it helps to be informed and also to be detailed with the requests for what type of places you're looking for, and ask lots of questions about the recommendations so you can make a decision. They usually have the menus to review.
We always tip our concierges, too.
re: Bite Me
I agree and never go anywhere without scouring CH and other helpful sites for information and, am always very specific with my requests. Why are those menu books so out of date? The book I saw last week listed places that had closed two years ago and some of the menues had prices from the last century.
While at a conference at a Roc Resort up in Keystone Colorado (which is a tiny tourist town near three other tiny towns), I gave the concierge a list of nearby places he had never tried or even heard of. He reported back that one was a block from where he lived and he loved it. Amazing!