A smorgasbord of cured meats served up at the iconic Four Seasons restaurant in New York

Editor’s Note: Business Traveller is a monthly show about making the most of doing business on the road.

Story highlights

New York City is enjoying a resurgence of the 'power lunch', where big deals are brokered over fine food

The 'Big Apple' is home to some of the world's most fashionable restaurants, so picking the right one is essential

Tim Zagat, co-founder and CEO of the esteemed Zagat restaurant survey gives us his top three choices

New York CNN  — 

If a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then what’s true in love is true in business too. At least, it is in New York City.

With some of the most upscale eateries and trendy downtown diners in the world, where you decide to take a client for lunch can be just as vital as what you talk about between bites in the Big Apple.

Indeed, it’s widely believed the term “power lunch” itself was first coined in a 1979 article by Lee Eisenberg, the then-editor-in-chief of Esquire Magazine, while writing about a new lunch scene that had popped-up in midtown Manhattan.

And while the food may have changed, it seems as many deals are brokered over the buffet counter as ever before. Although individuals are generally spending less on eating out, corporate spending is currently the largest driver of growth at fine dining and casual restaurants across New York, according to American Express.

Tim Zagat, co-founder,  CEO of Zagat Survey

Tim Zagat is the co-founder and CEO of the influential Zagat restaurant survey. He says that even during the peak of the financial crisis, lavish power lunches – involving food bills as outlandish as the transactions on the table – were still commonplace.

“I could tell you 30 or 40 restaurants in New York off the top of my head, where you would find a full house, and nobody is spending less than $100 for lunch,” he said.

Suffice it to say; the man knows a thing or two about the refined art of power lunching. So from big-spenders to penny-pinchers, here Zagat picks a spot to suit every budget.

Watch Richard Quest power-lunching in New York

The Four Seasons

Set away from the bustle of Times Square in Midtown Manhattan, this perennially fashionable restaurant - where a plate of crab-cakes alone can set you back a cool $55 – gained iconic status among Wall Street big-shots and movie producers in the high-flying days of the 1980s.

According to Zagat, it’s still the only place to go if money is no object.

“$100 dollars for lunch? It’s no big deal if you’re trying to make a million dollar deal,” he reasons. “If you’re talking business and it’s going to be paid for by somebody else, really (the price) doesn’t make much difference.”

But it’s not just the expensive fare, modernist décor and silver-service that are set to impress, in fact it’s your fellow diners who are really the main draw.

“Everybody in the place is somebody your guest will recognise,” explains Zagat. “Lunch there is like going through a bunch of front pages of Time magazine.”


For those without bottomless pockets, New York City has abundance of super-stylish eating establishments offering fine dining at an affordable price.

According to Zagat, many of the city’s best restaurants are now offering pre-fixed price menus at lunchtime, aimed squarely at business people.

Top of the pile, says Zagat, is the three Michelin-starred Jean-Georges, situated near to Central Park in the Trump International Hotel.

For a relatively modest $38, aspiring tycoons can scoff a two-course meal of sea trout and oyster scallop Carpaccio and a plate of crispy sweetbreads with spring onion and hibiscus – to name just a few of the establishment’s signature dishes.

“I’ve eaten more meals here in the last five years than at any other single restaurant,” reveals Zagat.

The Standard Grill

While the midtown restaurants aim for the more established crowd, downtown aims for the upcoming software titans in t-shirts and jeans.

This is the “most funky, fun area in New York,” says Zagat.

At the uber-trendy Standard Grill - where mains run around $15, your client is impressed - and your expense manager even more so.

Situated amid the industrial chic of a former meatpacking district, the restaurant serves up a one-page “American Bistro” menu where artisanal saucissons and hams comfortably sit alongside the Yankee staples of Ranch burgers and steaks.

“We definitely have a younger clientele - very sexy, fashionista, very cutting edge” boasts manager Michael Bailey.