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Mon Jun 10, 2019, 02:53 PM

The Power Lunch Is Officially Dead

New York Magazine

A mere ten months and $40 million after a splashy reopening, the Four Seasons restaurant will close its doors for good after lunch tomorrow. It’s a sudden, but not entirely surprising, end for the place, even though it was once the country’s most influential and — for most of its nearly 60-year run — most important restaurant. The restaurant is simply a relic of a time in which a very rich, mostly male regulars celebrated their power, and the power imbalance inherent to the culture, over lunch. Speaking to the New York Times, which broke the news of the closing, managing partner Alex von Bidder admits, “the restaurant world has changed.”

To quickly recap: Opened in 1959, the original Four Seasons occupied the landmarked Seagrams Building for 57 years and was, during that time, the sun around which power-broker planets (titans of industry, celebrities, people with big inheritances) orbited. Long story short, landlord Aby Rosen — who also tried to get rid of the restaurant’s Picasso — eventually gave owners Julian Niccolini and von Bidder the boot.

Furniture, flatware, and other pieces of the original restaurant were auctioned off; someone paid $10,000 for a set of ashtrays. The tree-motif sign went for $96,000 — not counting sales tax or a 20 percent buyer’s premium. It was a Big Deal. People, Grub included, wrote tributes and obituaries. The restaurant meant something, and its closing marked a definitive end of an era.


My mother was once at a business lunch with Elizabeth Rohatyn, when the Maitre D' came by to ask if Brooke Astor could join them, since she had shown up alone, apparently under the impression she was having lunch with someone...

Fun fact: when you celebrated your birthday there, they brought out a plate of cotton candy...

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 03:03 PM

1. Country clubs,

and now the power lunch are dying institutions.

I can't say that makes me unhappy.

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Response to murielm99 (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 03:10 PM

2. How it was used is one thing; it was still a fine restaurant.

If you're going to kill yourself with cholesterol, order the Steak Dianne and the chocolate souffle...

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 03:13 PM

3. That sounds like 1970's food.

I used to eat that way then. I can't do it now.

Also, I used a lot more salt.

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Response to murielm99 (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:39 PM

9. Lots of businesses are enacting no-alcohol policies.

Mine just did a few months ago. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Expect happy hour-centric places to become a booming business though!

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Response to murielm99 (Reply #1)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:39 PM

10. Think about paying $150,000 per year to play the same golf courses,

lounge around the same pool? What a complete waste of time.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 05:30 PM

4. "The maitre d' came by to ask ... if she could join them"

Would he have considered interrupting a table of two men to ask if a stranger could join them? Or did he just think that because they were women they didn't have anything important to discuss and seating an extra person at their table would be no big deal? Or did Astor think that because she had $$$ she could impose herself on other people so they could entertain her?

Those are other attitudes associated with high-end restaurants I'm glad to see go away.

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Response to Retrograde (Reply #4)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 07:27 PM

5. The key point was that Brooke Astor knew the host...

...and the Maitre 'D knew both of them.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 07:29 PM

6. "The restaurant world has changed" and you go out when you don't change with it. nt

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Response to UniteFightBack (Reply #6)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:45 PM

11. I have a good friend who is in that business.

A big component to success is lasting long enough to develop a name. The closing restaurant certainly had the name part down, so other things likely caused it to fail. My view is that even wealthy people don't have the time or patience to sit around idly with their economic class. That is why institutions that promoted that are failing.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 07:33 PM

7. Maybe it's dead at that restaurant, but I can assure you the power lunch is still alive and well. nt

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Response to cwydro (Reply #7)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:47 PM

12. The Internet has changed the dynamics. People don't have to meet face to face. nt

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Response to Blue_true (Reply #12)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:49 PM

13. However, many still do.

I doubt that particular fashion will ever go out of style.

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Response to cwydro (Reply #13)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 09:07 PM

14. I have to admit. I occasionally like sitting around with people that have the

same type of work that I do. I can sometime learn a lot. But I would not want to be around them one, two, three times per week.

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Response to Blue_true (Reply #14)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 09:09 PM

15. The power lunches that I'm referring to usually involve business deals.

I think they’re quite popular in Hollywood still as well.

Deals are also made on the golf course. Power teeing, I guess.

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Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 08:36 PM

8. Relic from a bygone era. Today people grad lunch at the building cafeteria and eat at their desk

while working. That is the modern corporate reality.

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Response to Blue_true (Reply #8)

Mon Jun 10, 2019, 09:21 PM

16. More places provide free

meals and snacks to their employees. Perks like those keep valued employees happy.

I have worked places where eating at one's desk was not allowed. It looked bad to visitors and guests. It implied that the employees were overworked or inefficient, take your pick.

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