HOST LIKE A PRO

ZOOMER Magazine - - ENTERTAINING -

ONE OF the en­dur­ing faces of Toronto and the first fe­male concierge of a ho­tel in Canada in gen­eral, Liloo Alim re­cently hung up her danc­ing shoes, leav­ing her post af­ter 39 re­mark­able years at the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel. Been there, hosted that: the ever-charm­ing Alim is noth­ing if not a peo­ple-ex­pert. Suss­ing out the knowl­edge she has built over her years in the hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness, we asked her to give us tips and observations about the art of hol­i­day en­ter­tain­ing, ap­ply­ing ev­ery­thing she’s learned in the won­der­ful world of lux­ury ho­tels.

Just lis­ten With­out lis­ten­ing to peo­ple’s needs, you re­ally can’t do your job (as a concierge). That’s the pri­mary job – “Some­times you’ll have a hus­band and a wife stand­ing right in front of you, not agree­ing. You can end up me­di­at­ing – tell them the pros and cons, coax them by ask­ing the right ques­tions to guide them into reach­ing their de­ci­sion – but never telling them out­right.” Even within a fam­ily, Alim re­lates, there can be a canyon of age dif­fer­ences, not to men­tion di­verg­ing in­ter­ests. Lis­ten­ing as a host is key. More­over, “pay­ing at­ten­tion, in gen­eral, is the job of the host” – some­thing that can be ap­plied to know­ing when/if peo­ple’s glasses need to be re­filled, if they’re too hot/ too cold or if they’re just look­ing for a break from an ac­tiv­ity.

Rely on your five senses Touch, taste, smell, sight and sound are all-im­por­tant, so make sure they’re all con­sid­ered when you have guests com­ing over. At

the Four Sea­sons, there is a para­mount im­por­tance put on an ar­ray fresh flow­ers, for in­stance – with the flow­ers be­ing “looked at and wa­tered, ev­ery day. Touch ups!” (Though it is crit­i­cal not to go over­board with the per­fume or use scented can­dles, ei­ther, in that it can mess with the taste of the food.) Light­ing, sim­i­larly, is “very, very im­por­tant ... af­ter a cer­tain time in the evening, put out all the can­dles.” The mu­sic should change, too. Nei­ther too loud nor too soft – if it’s too loud, peo­ple can’t talk.

It’s the lit­tle things “The first im­pres­sion is the last­ing im­pres­sion,” Alim says, whether it’s touch or eye con­tact or merely just us­ing some­one’s name in greet­ing – “the beau­ti­ful sound of some­one’s name.” If you take care of the lit­tle things, the big things take care of them­selves, in other words. “An­tic­i­pat­ing is the name of the game.”

Make In­tro­duc­tions As Canada’s top concierge, she made it im­por­tant to share in­for­ma­tion, know­ing that it only re­flects well on her if the whole team had the in­tel she did and had the same con­tacts. “If they look good, you look good.” In a big­ger party set­ting, the equiv­a­lence is mak­ing sure you take the time to prop­erly in­tro­duce every­one to every­one else. It’s an ob­vi­ous thing, but too of­ten some­thing a host misses.

Don’t worry about per­fec­tion Peo­ple freak out about en­ter­tain­ing be­cause they want it to be just right. The re­al­ity? No­body knows what your ex­pec­ta­tions were. Peo­ple play off your en­ergy and your abil­ity to adapt (even if you burned the rolls). Dur­ing Alim’s nearly four decades at the Four Sea­sons, she has found that peo­ple have gen­er­ally got­ten more ca­sual about things, some­thing that can even start with the tone of in­vi­ta­tions them­selves. “At the ho­tel, we even started com­mu­ni­cat­ing by chat ... and we have 90 sec­onds to re­spond, even to just ac­knowl­edge we just re­ceived their mes­sage.” Ac­knowl­edge­ment is ev­ery­thing, to the ex­tent that they’ve even dis­pensed with the Mr. and Mrs. hon­orifics in that con­text. “Take the lead from how your guest is talk­ing to you,” she says. –Shi­nan Go­vani

Gift It Ter­razzo gold can­dle hold­ers (set of 2), $39, Indigo

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