Lunch Theater

Who knows what Gossip Girl star Blake Lively and Israeli venture capitalist Vivi Nevo were discussing over a recent lunch at Michael's, the preferred noontime canteen of New York's media, real estate, and political elite. But one thing is certain: If they were at Michael's, they wanted people to know they were in touch. Alas, the point of going out to lunch "is to see and be seen," says former New York Post gossip columnist Liz Smith, who says her recent sightings at the Four Seasons restaurant have included the trio of David Rockefeller, Bill Clinton, and Blackstone Group (BX) co-founder Pete Peterson. "It's all about who's who in the room," says Sam Lipp, who manages Manhattan's Union Square Café. "Tables are even passed down to colleagues when people pass away."

Ordinary mealtime behavior can take on layers of meaning when viewed under a high-stakes microscope. Bloomberg Businessweek recently spied on more than 150 power lunchers at three of New York's swankiest venues—Michael's and the Four Seasons in Midtown, and Nello on the Upper East Side. Here we've categorized their behavior—more than one can apply per diner—according to a panel of experts, including Smith; Lipp; Patti Wood, author of the forthcoming Snap! Making the Most of First Impressions; David Givens, author of Your Body at Work; and Loews Hotels Chairman and Chief Executive Jonathan Tisch, an inveterate luncher who can be spotted nibbling Cobb salad at many of the city's most esteemed hasheries.

And other disturbing, less frequent power-lunching behaviors...

Big, Dark Sunglasses-Indoors Wearer/Givens: "You want to project an air of mystery. And you can scan the room without giving yourself away. They are your protection."

Extremely Loud Guy Making Bad Jokes in an Otherwise Subdued Space/Givens: "He may have Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD)—trouble picking up cues that people around him don't like a loud voice."

Bluetooth Talker-Eater/Smith: "That's rude and insane."

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