Lunch is on.
Summer is over, the pandemic is behind us and prominent New Yorkers are filling tables at upscale eateries for midday meals and deals. Restaurants around town report a significant jump in lunch covers with titans of industry, finance and media dominating most of the tables.
“People have been starved for in-person interaction, and power lunching is a signal that things are finally normal again,” Bob Fisch, an entrepreneur and self-described power luncher, told The Post. “It’s business as usual.”
Fisch, who founded the fashion company rue21 and is on the board at the Fashion Institute of Technology, especially loves having the American Wagyu burger and brainstorming at Peak in Hudson Yards. Last year, it was only open on weekends for lunch, but it has been gradually adding weekday lunches to meet demand.
“We were getting requests from people with offices in Hudson Yards for reservations,” said general manager Chris Nelson. “Also, we went from getting primarily tourists to corporate diners. The shift is noticeable.”
At the new Rockefeller Center location of Mediterranean powerbroker spot Avra, things are buzzing at lunch.
“We have a line out the door at 11:45 and stay busy all the way through 3 p.m.,” said general manager Orlando Santana, noting that they’re averaging several hundred customers for their $34.50 prix-fixe lunch each weekday. “The crowd is mostly from the companies in our building or near us like AIG, Barclays bank and CNBC.”
This resurgence of a staple dining-out pastime coincides with employees returning to the office. The Monthly Economic and Fiscal Outlook published Aug. 8 by the city’s comptroller’s office indicated that occupancy in office buildings had risen 20.7% thus far this year. Related, for one, which manages Hudson Yards and various other properties, reports that the occupancy in its office buildings is now 60%
But, while high-flying executives may be back to breaking bread together, power lunching today isn’t a copycat of its pre-COVID version. Meals are longer, less formal and decidedly more social. And in power lunch 2.0, a glass of wine is the norm — not an indulgent obsession.
“I didn’t have work lunches for so long, and now that I am, they’re not ordinary the way that they used to be,” said Kathleen McGivney, leader of the watch-collecting community RedBar Group. She has been enjoying having the occasional midday tipple when she dines at the high-end Midtown Mexican restaurant Empellón. “I never drank at lunch before COVID, but ordering a mezcal margarita or glass of wine to enjoy with my tacos has become a must.”
At the posh Italian spot Casa Lever in Midtown, general manager Antonio Colombani has noticed a new vibe at lunch. “You see people enjoying themselves much more and laughing,” he said. “They’re not as serious and take their time. Instead of rushing in and out in less than an hour, they stay for more than an hour and a half.”
Ahmass Fakahany, the founder and CEO of the Altamarea Group, the hospitality company that owns the tony seafood temple Marea, agreed. “There’s less of a transactional focus and more of a relationship focus,” he said. “I’m observing less stress and clients slowing down with a more social dynamic in the room.”
Michael Bapis, a managing director for an investment firm, said such interactions have become a must for him and his colleagues.
“In our office, we have a saying that if you’re not out lunching, you may as well not be working,” said Bapis, a regular at Avra’s Midtown and Madison Avenue locations. “Power lunches — bring them on.”