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Harry Miles – My Life in Hospitality

27 August 2010 by

Harry Miles is the head concierge at the London Marriott Grosvenor Square.
Harry Miles' working life began in the late 1960s as a contract cleaner, but the long hours for little money soon took its toll.

"I used to work seven days a week for about £40, had no social life with my wife and I was coming home filthy every night," he explains.

His father, a night porter at the Waldorf Hotel in Aldwych, suggested he come into the hotel industry, but Miles wasn't sure that what he considered to be a "yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir" job would be right for him.

"My father talked me into going for an interview, which I sailed through," remembers Miles. "The guy told me I was just what they were looking for." Miles' outgoing, personable nature secured him the role of night luggage porter at the Waldorf and he says he never looked back.

During his nine years at the Waldorf, Miles worked his way up to the head night porter position, by which point he felt it was time for a change and left to take the role of assistant night porter at the Europa where four years later he made the switch to working days.

"The day shift was a change because different things are open, whereas at night we were only arranging visits to bars, clubs and restaurants. After 14 years of being nocturnal, I didn't want to go back."

When the London Marriott Grosvenor Square opened in 1985, Miles joined the team as head concierge, which made his family very proud, particularly his father. "He got me into the industry and this is what he always wanted for me," says Miles.

The role has developed tremendously over the years, moving from paperclips and noticeboards to everything being computerised, but Miles says he has rolled with the times. And while the internet has meant people can now make many arrangements for themselves, demand for the concierge remains strong.

"People want a personal service and touch and that's never going to change. They can either deal with a robot or deal with a person and everyone prefers a person."

HIGHS… Rising to the challenge has provided Miles with some of his most memorable moments. On one occasion he was tasked with arranging a catered private yacht complete with waiting staff for some VIPs to the hotel. The caveat was that all drinks served had to be soft as the guests were Mormon. "I had a week to view it, make sure it was tip top, and hire the staff to work on board but I got it all sorted," he remembers.

Much more demanding was the time Miles had to get a guest up to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix within two hours. "I knew someone who knew someone and arranged a limo to take him to Battersea where he hopped on a helicopter. The chopper waited while he had lunch with one of the lesser royals and brought him back.

"I think he was trying to impress a young lady, which he succeeded in doing."

LOWS… Unfortunately not all arrangements run so smoothly. Miles once booked West End show tickets for a party of 30 executives, but on arrival at the theatre they quickly discovered that 10 of the seats had been double booked.

Miles explains: "It was the agent's fault but one guy was kicking up hell. I was at home when I got the call and there was very little I could do from there. In the end we comped the rooms and future tickets for the ones who missed the show."

Another rare error occurred when two separate guests took taxis to Heathrow and Gatwick airports, but with each other's luggage by mistake. "We averted disaster. It cost us a few bob to fix, but what's money compared to repeat business."

Family partner, four children, seven grandchildren between them
Age 60
Favourite holiday Orlando, Florida
Drives Vauxhall Astra
Motto Keep the pen working because while it's working you're busy

RECESSION-BUSTING TIPKeep your money under the mattress, but be aware of when the Bank of England changes the notes.

TagsHotels and My Life
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