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 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.
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 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.

Watching the Power Lunchers

Lunch Theater
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 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.
B&B
B&B
BlackBerry Absorbers: 32% (of people observed)

People who thumb their way through lunch “are saying, ‘I want to be seen with this person, but I’m so important I have other things to tend to,’ ” says Wood. Tisch: “It’s extremely rude—unless you’re checking to see if you won the Lotto.”

Lunch Boozers: 38% (of people observed)

A risky move. “Have as many glasses as your boss,” says Givens, unless your boss is Charlie Sheen. Tisch adds, “This is appropriate if you’re on vacation.” Smith agrees: “In the ’60s we’d all have two martinis at lunch. But nobody really drinks at lunch anymore.”
Table-to-Table
Table-to-Table
Power Table-Hoppers: 27% (of people observed)

Stopping at tables to chat or double-air-kiss is “a power move,” says Lipp. Givens: “It’s a measure of your connectedness.” Tisch notes that working the tables “can be an art form if done discreetly.” Smith: “Keep it short. Don’t join the table.”

Table-Hopper Deniers: 12% (of people observed)

Curtly saying “buh-bye” and turning one’s back to table hoppers is “catty,” says Wood. Givens adds that the person who terminates the conversation “is higher-status.” “I frequently wish people would go away,” says Smith, “but I still wouldn’t. It’s rude.”
The Proprietor
The Proprietor
Overeager Proprietor Acknowledger: 34% (of people observed)

Being visited by the owner “makes us all feel good and wanted,” says Tisch. According to Wood: “The tribal leader is saying, ‘You’re an honored member of my tribe.’ ” Smith: “They always interrupt
when somebody’s telling a fabulous anecdote.”
Leave the Bread, Take the Coat
Leave the Bread, Take the Coat
Bread Decliners: 47% (of people observed)

Not touching the breadbasket? It makes “the other person seem bad,” says Wood. Givens notes that it conveys “hyper-concern with your appearance.” Smith says: “I don’t go to these places for the food anyway.”

Coat Check Refusers: 3% (of people observed)

Keeping your fur hat, coat, or vest on during a meal is “old-style showing off,” Wood says. Lipp thinks it means “I don’t trust your coat check” to keep my fur clean. It’s a power move, Smith notes: “It says you’re not afraid of spilling food on your furs.”
iLone Eaters
iLone Eaters
Solo iPad Readers: 2% (of people observed)

Lunching with your tablet is “the modern-day version of dining alone with the newspaper,” says Tisch. It sends a message, Givens notes, “that you eat in these places so much that they’re like your home.” No, Smith says—it’s an “act of desperation.”
Please Call, Please Call
Please Call, Please Call
Nervous Phone Gazers: 19% (of people observed)

Continuously glancing at a mobile device on the table is “a comfort cue, like a security blanket,” says Wood. Lipp believes it’s a way for wary workers to play hooky: “I’ll have diners drinking wine who, if someone calls, say they’re out at a meeting.”
Don't Play With Your Food
Don't Play With Your Food
Food Pusher-Arounders: 52% (of people observed)

“The more junior person tends not to finish,” says Lipp of people who leave half their lunch uneaten. “It shows restraint,” says Wood. Givens agrees: “You’re performing.” Tisch is sympathetic: “When you eat out 21 times a week, this is mandatory.”