Thinking “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” way back when, a husband/wife hospitality team “got out of Dodge” (technically they left Dedham, Mass.) and headed to North Conway, N.H. to build a thriving restaurant where the air was clean, the vibe friendly, and the nearest big city many miles away.
“When we decided to move north, we’d already been working our whole lives in the Boston hospitality business,” says Richard Delaney, of Delaney’s Hole in the Wall of North Conway, a restaurant he co-owns with his wife Lanette and sister Mary Ellen Delaney. “My wife Lanette and I got the idea for Delaney’s Hole in the Wall after we visited a restaurant in Colorado for our 10th wedding anniversary and loved its Butch Cassidy theme.”
Something about the décor of that Colorado restaurant, which included saddles and other mementos of the classic Wild West movie starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, inspired the pair.
And off they went to strike hospitality gold in them, thar hills.
Delaney’s Hole in the Wall has been thriving since 1994, and boasts the #1 chicken wings in New England, according to highly reputed Boston.com.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Richard Delaney tells us about his secret wings recipe and offers other insights into sustaining success in a rough and tumble industry.
Q: How did you choose North Conway, N.H. for your restaurant?
When we first decided to move north, I was planning to go into the ski business. My wife started working right away at a fine-dining restaurant in the area. And after a while, when I realized I wasn’t going to work in the ski industry, I started bartending for landmark restaurant Horsefeathers.
We’d been working for a while when we decided we really should think about opening our new place. We looked at a few places, even made an offer that fell through, and finally, this building that we’re in came on the market. The previous business had folded and we were able to buy it before it went to auction. At the time, I was skeptical about the location. It’s on Route 16, but back then, it was a lot quieter and I wasn’t convinced. But my lawyer said it was perfect, and it turns out he was right!
Q: Why Butch Cassidy?
When my wife in I were on our anniversary in Colorado, we had such a great experience that we wanted to incorporate the southwestern theme and create a welcoming, warm, friendly environment. The idea was to be very comfortable for everyone, including families, and to offer a fun, active sports bar.
We’ve morphed over the years to include menu selections customers want. So, for example, we offer everything from sushi to our chicken wings, which were voted by Boston.com as number 1 in New England.
Q: What is your secret to great wings?
We get the large wings and don’t cut them in half, and we always bring them in fresh, not frozen. That really boosts the flavor. We have our own in-house sweet honey hot sauce and our own traditional Buffalo sauce. And when asked we do a double-baked wing to caramelize the sauce. People just go crazy over them. When Boston.com discovered them and ranked them number 1, we couldn’t believe how that stoked our foot traffic!
Q: How did you attract your first customers?
By the time we opened Delaney’s Hole in the Wall we’d been working in the community and got to meet so many people. We knew a number of locals and tourists, and when we decided to open our own place, these same people were willing to give us a chance. We built up our local following and started pulling in business through word-of-mouth recommendations.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge early on was getting our food to be really consistent. We overcame that challenge by hiring and keeping really good people. Our chef and assistant chef have been with us for 24 and 23 years, respectively. They very consistent, really solid. So, our customers know that when they order the wings, or the burgers, or the sushi, it will be made exactly to their expectations.
Q: Any advice to aspiring restauranteurs?
It’s really hard work, they should know that going in. We have three children and none of them want anything to do with the hospitality business. I tell them the same thing I tell everyone who works for me, which is, number one, you’ve gotta take care of your customers. And every day you have to prove yourself. You just can’t let up. But I love it! It’s never boring, but you have to be passionate. And if it’s in your blood, you know it. — Delaney’s Hole in the Wall uses Boxerbrand’s Café line in its menu cover presentation. Thank you!