Royal Sonesta Chicago Riverfront became part of the Sonesta family in 2019, and this hotel in the heart of the Windy City is lucky to have Verne Thomas as their resident Les Clefs d’Or concierge and expert on all things Chicago. Read below for the latest feature in our Meet the Concierge series, and bookmark this post for a future visit to enjoy all that Chicago has to offer.
What did your career path look like on your way to becoming a concierge?
My initial intention when I received my degree in Hospitality was to become a concierge. I had met many concierges in Chicago prior and was enamored with them. The route I took went a bit differently. I was hired by a large hotel company as a Rooms Controller and two years later I opened a new hotel as a Night Audit Manager. I continued to be promoted within the Front Office, but something was missing.
When that hotel was re-flagged, I decided to follow my passion and was hired as a concierge at a four star property in Chicago and have not looked back. Since becoming a concierge I have served on the board of Directors of the Chicago Hotel Concierge Association as well as Chairman of the Mentoring Committee, where seasoned concierges mentor those that have recently joined this wonderful profession.
As a member of Les Clefs d’Or for over 15 years, I have been Chairman of the Central Region Membership, a member of the Recognition and Retirement Committee and deeply involved in the planning of the LCD Congress when it was held in Chicago in 2013.
What’s the most memorable request or guest interaction you have had?
It’s the little things that bring memories, like buying a sketch book for a budding artist, and in return, receiving a picture she had drawn of me. Or having as guests a young man and his grandmother saying “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was one of their favorite films; the young man interviewed me for his high school newspaper. One guest wanted to send a package via an expensive courier to a friend living in Chicago, near me, so I become the courier. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, all guests are VIP!
If a guest asked three things that they must see/do/eat in your hotel’s area, what would your suggestions be?
The Royal Sonesta Chicago Riverfront, in an iconic mid century building, is lucky to be in the perfect location at the south end of Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile, but very close to Millennium Park and the Art Institute. The location directly on the Chicago River, is ideal for boarding one of our fascinating architectural river cruises.
If one does not want to walk to one of our award winning restaurants, Chicago is a city of diverse neighborhoods, just a short taxi or “L” ride away for cuisines from all over the world.
How do you keep up-to-date on all that is happening in your area in able to assist guests?
We have a tight concierge community in Chicago, always ready to share new venues and ideas among each other. Our vendors also share with us quite frequently of anything new they may offer. Networking is “key”.
What is your favorite way to spend a day in your area?
I live about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, and I can walk along our Riverwalk the entire way. If I am off, I can continue walking all the way to Lake Michigan. There is nothing like Chicago when the weather is pleasant, so in different times, I may walk along the lake up to Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game. Since I live along the river, there is also kayaking, electric boats, pleasure boats and more, but please, no swimming just yet in the river.
You have the honor of being a Les Clefs d’Or concierge. What meaning does that have for you?
Being a member of Les Clefs d’Or has brought me more joy and satisfaction than I could have imagined. Being able to call any hotel in the world to ask a question or assist a guest is just so comforting. The education we receive at the congresses is invaluable. While we are always learning, I have become a mentor myself and am able to pass on that knowledge to others.
The Royal Sonesta is a new brand to Chicago. The opportunity given to create a new concierge desk and with my professional presence in the city, we will soon have the Royal Sonesta Chicago Riverfront in the forefront of the community.