Story Shared by Connie O’Reilly & Nuala Herron of Niles Restaurant at Affinia Manhattan
Hello, can you share your name and how you know Denihan?
Connie: Hello. My name is Connie O’Reilly and I own Niles Restaurant which is the restaurant in the Affinia Hotel. We opened up Niles in 1987. Started work here in 1986 and we opened in ’87 and I think we signed a lease with Dan (Denihan) in 1988 after he had it open, this was the way we did business back then.
I was playing golf at Plandome Country Club one day with Dan. And Dan asked me, would you ever think about opening up a restaurant in the south gate. And I said yeah, we’ll take a look at it. At that time, it was just… it was a shoe shop. And there was only a little space really, it was the front of Niles where the bar is now, even smaller than that. So I looked and Dan said well let me see if I can get some more space.
So Lerner I guess had the space behind Niles, which is now our dining room and kitchen and stuff like that. So Dan was able to negotiate with Lerner which I believe that was very tough negations because we were asking for something back that they owned. So anyway, we got the space and we put in Niles into it.
Did you win that golf game?
Connie: Nobody ever wins against Dan!
I imagine over the years you’ve had some interesting guests come in and out of the restaurant – can you share some stories?
Connie: Okay. I think, Nuala, you would be more familiar with the guests.
Nuala: My name is Nuala Herron and I’m the manager at Niles restaurant and I’ve been working with Connie O’Reilly since 1987, November ’87, soon after Niles opened. Well I guess we’ve had over the years, like the Rangers used to always come before their pre games, you know and that… Even the year of the Stanley Cup, the Rangers used to always come and have their pre game meals, so that was great excitement after they won and having them come back in with the cup and everything like that. It was really good. They used to stay here and go for their naps in the afternoon before they would go over for the games at night. So they would come and east first and come… and then have their rooms upstairs and leave then and go over and play the game. So that was very exciting here, that was 1994, right. We’re still waiting for them to win another!
So what is it like to work with someone, for both of you, for as long as you’ve worked together? And what is it like to run a restaurant that is connected to a hotel?
Nuala: Oh, it’s great. It’s good. It’s interesting.
Connie: I think the key to it is keep out of each other’s way! But Nuala is great because she’s excellent and there’s no drama. We don’t do drama, okay. We get to solve the problem now. I think we passed drama in ’88, so.
Nuala: And you have to have a sense of humor I think when you’re in the hospitality industry because you really can take… even with the guests and everything, you can’t take everything to heart, you can’t take things personal, you’ve got to move on very fast in this business. And if everybody… if you think everybody has a grudge or something’s wrong, you’re never going to move ahead in hospitality because you’re always going to be looking behind you as opposed to going forward. And I think it’s so important in this business, you know. So I think that’s why we work well together because we’re both into what we can do to make things better as opposed to figured out what went wrong yesterday, you know.
Connie: It’s water under the bridge. You know, we’ve made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes and I’m sure Nuala has. But we learn from our mistakes and that won’t happen again, or we try not to let it happen again. but basically our business is no different to your business, it’s about the guests. The guest keeps us here. And that’s… we need a guest to be pleased with what they’ve got, value for their money, good service, be treated the way any of us like to be treated and hopefully get repeat business.
Whether it’s in Niles Restaurant, whether it’s catering in the hotel, whether it’s room service. And a guest may come in and have a nice room and stuff like that, comes down to the restaurant and has a bad experience, that destroys the whole overall picture of what we’re trying to achieve.
Nuala: It does, but I guess what makes the Affinia so special, and I’m sure it’s the same with all your restaurants, but you make us feel very inclusive with your organization, which is great. Like even this morning, I had staff meetings and that. That’s how you learn what’s going on, so you don’t feel like someone’s coming down and saying, oh just do this. You kind of get the whole picture, a broader overview of everything, you know, which is great… you know, it’s educational as well.
Connie: Nuala is great, like she takes that time. And we’re in step with what’s happening in the hotel, if there’s something that needs to be done for a special group that are coming in, we’ll know about it.
What is it like to partner with Denihan for so long?
Connie: Well Dan and Brooke and Patrick… … it’s a joy for us, and I see what the. And it’s an absolute joy for us to be part of the bigger picture, because we feel we’re contributing as well in whatever little way we can. And it’s nice to know that there’s so much good work being done by a family. And that we’re part of that company… actually, part of that family, if you don’t mind me saying so. And it’s just nice and enjoyable.