The term “power lunch” first appeared in Esquire in 1979, in a story about the Grill Room at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. But the event itself had been thriving ever since lunch became the meal tied most closely to the ticking clock of the workday. In a city defined by speed, time was a luxury, and businessmen whose status freed them from the confines of the strictly enforced lunch hour established a ritual of midday dining with their colleagues.
The template for power lunch was set in the 1830s by Delmonico’s, where sophisticated cooking, ostentatious decor, and a prime location in the business district proved an immortal combination; hundreds of imitators sprang up over the years. The concept of power lunch, however, was never defined solely by the men in expensive suits who made it famous. New York has always been fueled by innumerable sources of power—artists and politicians, writers and preachers, ladies and rebels. Gathering over lunch has long been the way New Yorkers make connections, size up the competition, and remind themselves that in a chaotic, impervious town, they still have a place at the table.