Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero
- 222 Sansome Street, San Francisco, California, 94104, USA
Assistant Chef Concierge
Four Seasons Tenure
- Originally hired 1985, now since 2020
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Accounts Receivable, Four Seasons Clift Hotel (formerly a Four Seasons Hotel)
- Loews Regency San Francisco Hotel; Mandarin Oriental Hotel, San Francisco; Park Hyatt San Francisco; Four Seasons Clift Hotel (formerly a Four Seasons Hotel)
- Bachelors Degree, General Studies, College of San Mateo, California
- San Mateo, California, USA
As in the city outside, there’s a lot to watch in the lobby of Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero. From his station behind the Concierge Desk, Michael Dunlap keeps his eyes on both. “We’re always looking forward to the next guest and to the next new thing,” he says of his role as Assistant Chief Concierge. “When we’re approached with a request, we want to give guests something to make their day. And when something new appears on the scene, we want to be among the first to know about it.”
Being among the first is a never-ending job for Dunlap and his colleagues. When he gets off work, he pours through the web for new restaurant openings, cultural events, entertainment options, and other opportunities to soak up San Francisco. He also stays in close touch with restaurant and theatre managers he has gotten to know over the years, the better to ensure there will always be an impossible-to-score table reservation or ticket available when a guest requests one.
Dunlap is also in frequent touch with other concierges throughout the city and around the world. Most of them, like Dunlap, are members of Les Clefs d’Or – “Golden Keys” – the international professional organisation of hotel concierges. “We’re in constant communication,” he says, summarising a typical call to a fellow concierge as: “‘What’s new? What have you heard about?’ That’s the wonderful thing about our business: You always want to help, and there’s always help when you need it.”
Given or received, Dunlap’s help encompasses “pretty much doing anything for the guest that’s legal,” he says with a laugh. Typical requests include golf, transportation and dinner reservations; guidance on local walking tours and cutting-edge retail; and coordinating balloon sightseeing and wine tasting jaunts to nearby Napa Valley.
“I once had a request from a guest who wanted me to go to the Pacific and get them a gallon of ocean water,” he recalls. So – what did he do? “I drove a half-hour, rolled up my pant legs, and got them their water.”
Dunlap knows San Francisco, the Bay Area, the Hotel, and its guests quite well. He worked in the same position at the same physical property for more than 15 years under the flags of two international hotel groups, and now the one flown by Four Seasons. If that weren’t enough, back in the 1980s and ‘90s he spent 12 years less than a mile away at Four Seasons The Clift (formerly a Four Seasons hotel).
Born, raised and educated in San Mateo south of the city, Dunlap always thought of hotels as an opportunity to do what he wanted to do. One day in the late 1970s, he was lunching with a group of friends who were going to see A Chorus Line on Geary Street, then “theatre row” in San Francisco. “Up the street on the corner, I saw all these limousines coming and going and thought, ‘what’s up with that place?’ So I went to have a look. Turns out, it was Four Seasons The Clift.”
Fascinated, Dunlap applied for a position at the Front Desk to get his foot in the door, but landed instead in the accounting department. Over the years, he shuffled up to Assistant to the General Manager before finally transferring to the concierge desk.
“More than anything, I wanted to make a real impression on the guest,” he remembers of the move, noting that 80% of being a concierge lies in how one treats their guests. “The opportunity to give people a wonderful memory to keep is what drives me to this day.”
Asked to name a can’t-miss memory maker in San Francisco, Dunlap says he likes to point people toward the Ferry Building, an 1898 landmark with a lively market featuring a remarkable selection of food and wine. He also likes the new Salesforce Park, which runs the length of the Transit Center and is home to 600 trees and 16,000 plants arranged in 13 different botanical feature areas. Both are just 10 minutes on foot from the Hotel.
In the end, Dunlap says the hardest part of becoming a concierge is getting over one’s own nerves and speaking with confidence and intelligence to guests. “But once you get it and live and breathe it, it sticks with you,” he concludes, adding, “there’s nothing like a guest coming back and sincerely saying, ‘thank you.’”