ALAN McDougall says he will try to fulfil any request as long as its “legal and moral”.

And as head concierge at one of Glasgow’s longest running hotels he’s had his fair share of bizarre requests from guests.

There was the time a wealthy Middle Eastern man asked him to deliver two Yorkshire Terriers to his room but more of that later.

After 30 years in the job the 47-year-old has welcomed a who’s who of famous guests including US rocker Bruce Springsteen and former UK prime minister John Major but if they had any more peculiar requests he’s not saying.

HeraldScotland:

It’s this level of discretion and customer service that resulted in Mr McDougall being voted the UK’s top concierge by The Society of the Golden Keys when he was at the five-star, Cameron House resort.

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Most famously depicted in the movies Home Alone and the Grand Budapest Hotel it has 6,000 members worldwide and has roots dating back to 1929 Paris. 

Members must show they are setting new standards in guest service “perfection” and Mr McDougall has just been sworn in as the Scottish chairman.

“You have to be friendly and outgoing but one of the biggest things is being able to think on your feet because you never know what the next guest who walks round the corner is going to ask for,” says Mr McDougall who lives in Riddrie, in Glasgow’s east end.

“I remember when I was at the Hilton, it was a Sunday night and totally out of the blue – I don’t want to say he was royalty but he was a Middle Eastern gentlemen who wasn’t worried about where his next meal was coming from, let’s put it that way.

“He came over and I thought I had misheard him. He said he was looking for Yorkshire Terriers. I said ‘you mean a statue for your mantlepiece and he said no, he was looking for two Yorkshire Terriers.

“He had promised his wife that when he was here he would get them as a gift. Back in the day, Google wasn’t a thing and if it was a thing it was in the very early stages.”

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Cue a JR Hartley-esque trawl through the Yellow Pages book to try to fulfil the guest’s request.

“I had a couple of contacts who had dealt with dog breeding and there was a gentleman in Ayrshire who said he dealt with Yorkshire Terriers and shipping,” he says. “I don’t know if he expected to get them there and then.”

He says he doesn’t always recognise the famous guests he ushers 
through the doors but recalls Bruce Springsteen being “very down to earth”.

HeraldScotland:

“Most are very low key. Bob Monkhouse was a strange one – I thought he was very rude to start with because whenever I spoke to him, he just walked straight past. 

“It turned out he had a corporate gig and he had a script he was memorising and apparently he always did that the night before. A nicer guy you couldn’t meet – the day after.”

He says that his east end roots remind him that all guest should be treated the same no matter how big their bank balance is and says it's always a delight to assist in arranging surprise proposals under the Central Station clock.

“Just recently I assisted a young gentleman who was proposing under the clock. His family were sitting up in the hotel watching,” he recalls.

Mr McDougall joined voco Grand Central as head concierge four years ago and has now been promoted to head of guest services at the four-
star hotel.

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The married father-of-one says he’s proof that anyone “including a street rat from Easterhouse” can achieve the top level in their chosen profession regardless of background.

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He got into the hospitality trade through Margaret Thatcher’s YTS (Youth Training scheme), starting as a porter. “You are not necessarily looking for university graduates, a lot are but I was at secondary school – then stop.” 

During the pandemic he launched a podcast with Hannah Cochrane, business development manager at Glasgow restaurant Chaophraya to share positive news in the industry as morale plummeted.

The pair launched Pure Buzzin’ with some assistance from the Events Team at Strathclyde University and were rewarded for their efforts with a  Hospitality Engagement award at the On Trade Scotland Awards.

“There was occasionally some positive stories, a chef branching out or hotels starting to be built but they weren’t getting out there.”

Now that hotel bookings are looking a lot healthier, he’s got a bit less time for the podcast and it’s back to the day job.

A lot of time is spent offering advice to guests before they have arrived, including warning them “where not to go” in Glasgow.

“Sometimes that’s just as important,” he laughs.