Clancy O’Connor - Four Seasons New York Concierge
One of my favorite places in New York City, hands down, is the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s known all over the world for delivering the best service and accommodations you’ll find. It was no surprise that after speaking with their Concierge, Clancy O’Connor, the magic only the Four Seasons offers comes from the collaboration of experience and the creative thinking of their team. If you’re as lucky as I was when talking with him, Clancy may even sing a freestyle melody right on the spot. It’s one of the added talents he discovered while studying at Juilliard. If anything, you’ll surely be glad to read the insight Clancy gives in delivering a charmed New York experience.
What would you say is a secret to your formula of bringing the magic that comes with your role? If I were a visitor in NYC, why would I call Clancy first?
The secret formula is personalization. All things tailored, bespoke, nostalgic, and heartfelt are really having a moment, and for good reason– I think it’s a direct response to the impersonal nature of the digital age. I draw on my experience as a New Yorker of 15 years and a hospitality professional for 10; I offer suggestions to my guests that are specifically suited to them. I do this by first getting to know them through a short series of leading questions, by reading body language, and even by observing how they move and speak. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make anyone feel special, and that’s really what people want, along with an element of surprise. So after I feel I understand what they are after, I suggest more—if we are simply booking a restaurant reservation, I might mention a great cocktail or dessert place that’s nearby, or an interesting entertainment option following dinner like a late magic show or burlesque.
What’s a good piece of travel advice you can give to a traveler or even a local, who may not be in the habit of seeking a concierge’s expertise that go beyond seeking Yelp reviews for new places to explore.
My advice is, quite simply, don’t be afraid of asking for help, and don’t underestimate the concierge before you’ve had a conversation with them. Yelp reviews, “best of” lists, and the like operate on a flawed premise: that everyone has the same taste. Their lists usually have formal and informal restaurants side-by-side, and a restaurant in deep Brooklyn or Queens next to one from Manhattan. When a guest comes to me with a list like this, or even a list from a friend, I respond by saying “those are all great ideas, but me what places you’ve been to that you love,” or “tell me what kind of experience you’re looking to have on this visit.”
What is one of the most memorable or even “craziest” requests (that you can share that a client has requested of you personally).
A guest of mine lost his foreign passport and his Green Card and needed to travel from New York to Greece to be in a wedding the next week. Normally this would mean he’d personally need to fill out a police report, then take that to the Italian consulate and try to get a travel document. I know a company that does it all for you. (Sometimes it’s not about being able to do it all yourself, it’s knowing precisely who to call). It was gratifying seeing this guest breathe a sigh of relief when I was able to present him with an efficient solution to his problem. If that’s not exciting enough, I also bought and shipped a pet rabbit to Dubai once.
When did you realize that you were really adding value to people’s lives and not just the few days they were staying at your hotel? What was the working moment?
I had a guest that was coming to New York for experimental cancer treatment with his wife after his doctors in the UK told him there was nothing more they could do. Each day, following his treatment at a nearby cancer center, his wife would call and tell me how things had gone at the hospital that day. This couple was terrified, but hopeful. After about a year, they were told that the treatment had been successful and no cancer was detected. This time when his wife called she was ecstatic. When they returned to the hotel that night, we had some congratulatory champagne and balloons and a card waiting for them – they were gushing, hugging us all, telling everyone the whole story. The Four Seasons had become their New York home, and our staff their New York family. The genuine connection I and other members of my team felt with this couple transcended our roles as guests and staff. It was human to human, soul to soul.
What are you anticipating in the fall to share with your clients that they have yet to experience in NYC?
The landmarked Four Seasons Restaurant has been renovated and is re-opening in stages as three separate restaurants. The first to open is The Grill, which embraces the 1950s heritage of the Four Seasons: there is tableside carving service, flambéed desserts and an egg noodle dish called pasta a la presse that involves a duck press rolled out on a $10,000 trolley. I love the theatricality, detail and glamour. It harkens back to the best parts of a bygone era.
Venture to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and treat yourself to a meal at Lilia in Brooklyn. Missy Robbins is the star chef (and the Obamas’ favorite) who earned her stripes at Spiaggia in Chicago before moving to New York where she brought A Voce to Michelin-star status. She is front and center in Lilia’s open kitchen. The space is almost all-white with huge windows; it actually used to be an auto-repair shop. I’ve been 4 times and every time I visit Missy has new stuff on the menu. I don’t know how food can feel fresh and modern and rustic and familiar all at once, but Missy apparently does.
While all requests may not come with complimentary carrots or sleeping cabins, Clancy sure knows how to pull a rabbit out of his hat for those lucky enough to experience a bit of life with him. You can follow Clancy's journey of globetrotting and fitness rewards through our Instagram post.