About Careers MedBlog Contact us

Smashing the Glass Ceiling at a Paris 'Palace' Hotel

by Kathy Jones on July 28, 2014 at 10:45 PM
Font : A-A+

 Smashing the Glass Ceiling at a Paris 'Palace' Hotel

Sonia Papet is part of a tiny elite of women who have entered the traditionally male domain as she goes about her job as new chief concierge at a top "palace" hotel in Paris.

She took on the job last month at the prestigious Hotel Le Bristol on the chic rue du Faubourg St Honore, which is decked out with Baccarat crystal chandeliers, Carara marble and Gobelin tapestries and boasts a chef with three Michelin stars.


Few other women have broken through the hospitality glass ceiling.

Last year, Colleen Grant became the first woman to take the top concierge job at a Hastings Hotel Group spa in Northern Ireland. Across the globe in New Zealand, Amelia Patterson became the first female chief concierge in the capital Wellington in 2012.

As one of only two women who are chief concierges at palace hotels in France -- the other, Marie-Christiane Grun, works at the Grand Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, on the Riviera -- Papet is something of an "ambassador", a colleague said.

The 40-year-old blonde who wears her hair pulled back in an elegant chignon says she has not encountered any male chauvinism.

"Whether you are a man or a woman, the qualities of a good concierge are the same: curiosity, general cultural knowledge, and a desire to please," says Papet.

Wearing a black jacket over a silver waistcoat and tie, Papet proudly sports a pair of crossed gold keys on each lapel, a sign of a membership in the Clefs d'Or club of luxury concierges.

The organisation, which has 4,000 members around the world, counts 420 concierges in France of whom only 45 are women.

Dominique Guidetti, the head concierge at the Park Hyatt Paris and the president of the Clefs D?Or in France, says concierges used to start their careers "as hotel grooms, luggage porters, doormen".

Now, he says, that is changing, with many applicants for the job having studied hospitality before coming to work in the top hotels.

Papet herself earned her stripes at The Pierre in New York, Mexico City's Four Seasons and the world-famous George V in Paris, another Four Seasons property, before becoming deputy chief concierge at the Bristol in 2011.

- Top-end luxury -

The Bristol is one of only 13 luxury hotels in France with the coveted "palace" label accorded by the tourism authorities to five-star properties using criteria including location, history, comfort and notable amenities such as Michelin-starred restaurants -- and of course personalised service, the kind expected from a top-notch concierge.

"The average price of a room at the Bristol is currently 1,400 euros ($1,900) a night," said Papet. "At that price, you cannot make mistakes, you need both impeccable service but also to anticipate the needs of your customers."

That means constantly keeping "abreast of cultural news and being up-to-date on all the new exhibitions, the latest chefs, and the menus of the top restaurants," she said.

"With the growth of the Internet, our clients no longer really need us to reserve them a table, or book them tickets to a show," says Papet, who oversees a staff of 12.

"Our role is to make sure they have all the details that they might need, so they can be sure of getting a result that they are happy with."

With an ever-more demanding clientele, the number one rule of a concierge in the top hotels, says Papet, is never to let a guest leave unhappy.

"People don't often say that they are unhappy. It's up to us to notice, even if they don't say so very clearly," she said.

- Cinderella party -

Any outlandish requests or eccentric demands? According to Papet, they are actually quite rare. At the Bristol, she says, celebrities and long-term patrons tend to be fairly discreet.

That said, there has been the odd special challenge: like one client who was planning to pop the question to his girlfriend over lunch and asked for the engagement ring to be delivered by a top jeweller while the pair were having dessert.

"Which is no easy thing," Papet says.

She also recalls organising a helicopter ride to Vaux-le-Vicomte, a baroque chateau south of Paris, and a lunch on the castle terrace with the owner, as a particularly memorable request.

Perhaps even more so was the time she helped organise a 10th birthday party for a girl -- who had her heart set on riding in a Cinderella carriage.

Source: AFP


Recommended Reading

Latest Lifestyle and Wellness News

 Brain Protein Behind High-Salt-Induced Hypertension and Cognitive Impairment
Researchers identified two key physiological systems involved in hypertension, cognitive, and emotional impairments following high salt intake.
Defying Time: Unlocking the Secrets to Wrinkle-Free Skin
Decoding the secrets of wrinkles by knowing the causes, prevention, and expert advice.
Summer's Gaze: Prioritizing Eye Care!
With the arrival of summer and the lure of outdoor activities, it is essential to give equal importance to the well-being of your eyes and skin.
Summer Makeup Battle: Conquering Humidity and Heat
Combination of high humidity and scorching heat in summer poses a daunting task for makeup wearers; balancing it is thus crucial.
Protecting Yourself from Summer Sun: Tips and Tricks
Selecting the right SPF for your skin is quite tricky, but the thumb rule is to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for effective results.
View All
This site uses cookies to deliver our services.By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use  Ok, Got it. Close

Smashing the Glass Ceiling at a Paris 'Palace' Hotel Personalised Printable Document (PDF)

Please complete this form and we'll send you a personalised information that is requested

You may use this for your own reference or forward it to your friends.

Please use the information prudently. If you are not a medical doctor please remember to consult your healthcare provider as this information is not a substitute for professional advice.

Name *

Email Address *

Country *

Areas of Interests