Ben Elliot is revolutionizing the personal concierge business. In the three years since he cofounded Quintessentially, the British-born Elliot has won the respect and loyalty of travelers and city dwellers all over the world. They rely on him for access to the most exclusive events and information about the hottest new destinations. Elliot has worked in many fields within the hospitality industry—he's been a tiger guide in India and has run a members-only nightclub in London—so he knows what it takes to please his clients. Travel + Leisure caught up with Elliot for an inside look at Quintessentially.
1. Where are you now?Why are you there?Is there anywhere you would rather be?
I am in Manhattan's Quintessentially offices, in the Meatpacking District. Tomorrow I'm off to London, to visit the team there, then to our new operation in Switzerland, and finally to Ibiza and Formentera, for a week's vacation. Doing what I do definitely has an up side.
2. How often and how far do you usually travel in a year?
As far and as often as I can. I always seem to be traveling. I started traveling as soon as I left school—everywhere from Romania to India. I have always been fascinated by the United States; when I was 18, I did the whole Greyhound bus thing. I also love the Caribbean. In my pursuit of Hemingway, I visited Cuba. It is an extraordinary place, with wonderful people, music, and culture.
3. What is your background?
I worked in the kitchens of the famous Harry's Bar in London while at university. After I graduated, I set up K-Bar, a marketing group, and a members' club, Kabaret. My mentors include Gordon Campbell Gray, of London's One Aldwych and the much anticipated Carlisle Bay in Antigua, and Jeff Klein of the City Club Hotel in New York. I also really admire what Nick Jones and Ilse Crawford have done with Soho House New York.
4. Describe the aim of Quintessentially.
We focus on organizing people's liveshandling their travel, restaurant, and nightclub bookings. We obtain tickets for our members to theater, sporting events, fashion shows, and film premieres.
5. Where did the idea for the company come from?
There was nothing as personal, exciting, and compelling as Quintessentially out there. And we knew people wanted an umbrella service that wasn't dull and corporate. Although we are maturing, we still have lots to do and add for our members. This is our passion and our mission.
6. Describe a typical member profile.
People who use Quintessentially are an eclectic group of travelers: actors, businesspeople, doctors; men and women alike. Our youngest member is royalty; our eldest, an Irish author.
7. What prompted you to expand the company from London to New York?
Simple: we had to look after our European members in New York, and we could not do that brilliantly without being in New York ourselves. New Yorkers are typical of Quintessentially members, in that they are savvy, used to getting what they want, and often work hard leaving little free time. This year we plan to open in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Miami. We have international offices opening in the Middle East and Asia. Our magazine is set to debut next year.
8. Where do people want to go now?
Recently we have received lots of requests for St.-Tropez, Ibiza, Aspen, and Sardinia. Restaurants are big, too: in London people are fascinated by Sketch, The Ivy, and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's; in New York City, 66, Nobu, wd-50, Schiller's Liquor Bar, Lever House Restaurant, and the forthcoming Charlie Trotter restaurant. And, of course, everyone wants to get into the new Soho House.
9. Any challenging or interesting requests?
One of our members wanted to get off an island in South America immediately—he had no identification or money or even a clue where he was. Another asked for 20 front-row tickets to the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden an hour before the show. One of our female members asked us to find her a husband.
10. How do you fulfill the most difficult requests?
That's a secret.