Now Reading
The New York City Power Lunch Has Returned

The New York City Power Lunch Has Returned

The New York City Power Lunch Has Returned

As the 2010s drew to a close it seemed like the New York power lunch would finally end as well. Obituaries were written for the institution where the corporate world’s movers and shakers took a midday break to convene. But spending that kind of time at lunch felt like a luxury people couldn’t afford as they were too busy to peel themselves away from the office. Martinis at Michael’s were replaced by Sweetgreen at one’s desk. However, New Yorkers are back to telegraphing their influence by securing the hottest tables in town and spending their sweet time actually sitting at them, enjoying the food. The power lunch has returned to the Big Apple.

“It’s very active for lunch—for us and for the newcomers, and for everybody else,” Eric Ripert, whose Le Bernardin may be the power-lunch spot in New York, tells Robb Report. “It’s a lot of business going on in New York. Wall Street is doing well. When Wall Street does well, everybody does well.”

While the pandemic dealt a blow to business meetings and the restaurant industry, both have rebounded mightily, with N.Y.C’s fine-dining powerhouses seeing the return of the city’s who’s who during the hours of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This revival coincides with a return to work after Covid-era lockdowns; in April 2024, New York saw office visits bounce back to 83.1 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to location data company Networking and deal making are back, and Manhattan’s restaurants are once again the nexuses of power.

Black bass from Le Bernardin

Daniel Krieger

At Le Bernardin, about 30 percent of the restaurant’s clientele stops by during the afternoon, Ripert says. The power-lunch crowd includes big names in real estate, finance, and law, although the chef will not disclose exactly who’s enjoying the restaurant’s pan-roasted dover sole and wild mushroom tagliatelle. Some of them are even dining at Le Bernardin three or four days a week, with a specific table set aside for each visit. And as the years go by, the Le Bernardin lunch crowd isn’t slowing down: “We always progress,” Ripert says. “I have never seen a year where we went down compared to the previous year.”

It’s the same story at just about every other coveted table in New York. At the Grill—which notably took over the former Four Seasons space, where power lunchers congregated until the restaurant shut down in 2016—lunch covers are up a healthy 26 percent year to date, a spokesperson for the restaurant says. And the check average has risen alongside, jumping 18 percent.

Andrew Carmellini, the chef behind Café Carmellini, says the restaurant’s offerings have been a hit with the power-lunch crowd, which makes up the majority of afternoon diners. On any given day, Café Carmellini does 75 to 125 covers during its two-ish-hour-long lunch service, and those numbers only continue to grow. 

Grilled wild salmon from Café Carmellini

Grilled wild salmon from Café Carmellini

Evan Sung

While Midtown has historically been the epicenter of business lunches, Downtown Manhattan is also a midday hot spot. Restaurants like Raf’s, from the Michelin-starred Musket Room team, Major Food Group’s Torrisi are completely booked out during the afternoon. While the check average at Torrisi is slightly lower than what it may be at dinnertime, Rich Torrisi, the restaurant’s namesake, tells Robb Report that the vibe is extremely energetic. Business regulars come in every Friday afternoon to power lunch, supplemented by locals who live nearby and tourists hitting up Soho’s shopping scene.

At Raf’s, meanwhile, lunch made up about 20 percent of the restaurant’s overall revenue in April, the co-owner Nicole Vitagliano says via email. She only expects that share to grow, with weekend vibes spilling over into weekday lunching.

“The lunch vibe is incredible,” Vitagliano says. “It seems to be a time for networking and kissing and connecting. Lots of editors, colleagues, and former colleagues connecting or reconnecting. Tables tend to often get up and greet each other or multiple other groups; we’ve seen groups pass dishes from table to table to share with one another. One word of caution: Anyone in design, fashion, food, or film might not want to come for a clandestine meeting.”

Of course, these are some of the most popular restaurants in the city, whether for lunch or dinner. Overall, across all restaurants offering a mid-day meal in New York, the power-lunch trend may be losing some of its traction. According to SevenRooms data shared with Robb Report, the number of lunch reservations from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. per venue on the platform was down year over year from January 1 through May 31. (SevenRooms is used by companies like Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and Altamarea Group, among others.) Over that same period last year, reservations were up 11.2 percent from 2022 to 2023.

Torrisi is attracting a downtown power crowd.

But according to Tock, another reservation platform used by high-end restaurants like Aquavit and Masa, there are indications that the power lunch has returned. Per-booking spend on Fridays at Tock restaurants in New York City has grown from 2023 to 2024: Whereas the average table spent $72.22 per booking on Fridays in the first quarter of 2023, it put down $130.26 per booking in the first quarter of this year. That’s increased to $136.91 per booking in Q2, although both totals are down slightly from the high of $168.46 per booking in the second quarter of 2023.

While the data may be mixed, the anecdotes are strong. So maybe what this really demonstrates is the relative power of the power lunch. Are you really power lunching if you’re not sitting within the grand dining room of the Grill or lingering over Ripert’s three-course menu at Le Bernardin? While New York’s business elite may not be imbibing as much as they used to during a weekday business lunch, they do seem to be enjoying themselves in a different, more leisurely way.

“Everybody was in a rush. They were coming here, they had to go back immediately to the office,” Ripert said about the late-’90s, early-2000s style of power lunching. “Today, they take their time . . . It’s not like they’re spending three hours with us, but nobody’s in a hurry.”

The days of the three-Martini lunch may be behind us, but power lunch in New York City, it seems, is alive and well.

Copyright © MetaMedia™ Capital Inc, All right reserved

Scroll To Top