So you want to tour Cape Town with your partner, three children, an au pair and a nanny, and are all set to drive yourself from the airport to your rented villa on Clifton's Millionaire's Row... Sound like much of a holiday? Enter Anthony Smith who, after closing the deal on the rental, will despatch a driver to take over for the duration of your visit. His offer to keep your staff and offspring occupied so you can have some alone time with your partner may have clinched the deal.
It's that kind of can-do attitude that allows his company, Ambienz Bespoke Concierge, to be all things to all people in the consistently demanding luxury service industry. Smith worked in fitness, hospitality and real estate before realising the intrinsic value of his villa rentals business — requests from clients to share recommendations on everything from restaurants to tours to hairdressers evolved into the now sought-after bespoke service. 'We sell the Cape Town lifestyle,' he says.
Smith will arrange a meeting with clients to learn more about their background, country of origin, interests and hobbies in order to tailor-make appropriate itineraries. He’s flexible, mostly, except when something like a last-minute request to change a hair appointment threatens his carefully laid plans. The answer will be 'no', then. 'You have to know when to draw the line,' says Smith. 'Ask me for a table on the deck at The Grand at 11.45am on a Saturday when you're 10 minutes away. That I can do!'
What about tracking down a nontoxic face cream you discovered on your last visit, or a supplier of organic meat? Smith will find both in a matter of minutes, in the latter instance going so far as to find out which restaurants the butcher supplies and offering to make a booking.
His approach is simple, really. Bend over backwards to give clients a memorable experience. Be discreet. Listen. Think out of the box. Find the unfindable. Make things happen, if necessary, on the go. But to do that, it's often about who you know. Anthony taps into an industry expert when a client wants a wine made with a particular grape or suggests a florist who works from home and can happily do 'loose' and 'free' table arrangements when a client is doggedly resisting an event organiser's pitch of 20 formal bouquets.
One client says of the Ambienz offering: 'Very few local service providers have an understanding of the international standard, or are willing to adapt. We look for people who can follow a brief, within a budget, of course; who are willing to fit in with our requirements without being fussy and pretentious; who can contribute their own ideas, within the parameters of the project; and who try to make a plan.'
Anthony agrees. Capetonians still don't get it, he says. For example, a request to charter a boat for a single client may be met with counters of 'but it's very expensive' or 'we only take so many guests'. He's had similar reactions to attempts to book a three-day four-wheeler trip up the Ceres mountains. 'People don't know how to deal with this market,' he says. 'There is money to be made if service providers are prepared to overcome the challenges posed by unusual requests.'
On the other hand, he's had people wanting to fly onto Table Mountain and refusing to accept that local legislation stands in their way. Some people think there's nothing money can't buy. Or they're simply pushing the boundary. The outcome is a recommendation in itself, and that's what this business is all about. ambienz.co.za