Esquire’s restaurant critic (and friend of Grub Street!) John Mariani rounded up his picks for the best restaurant cities in America (New York’s No. 1, natch), which, fine, okay. What struck us was this line: "It was at the Four Seasons, opened in 1959, that the term ‘power lunch’ was coined by Esquire." Really? That’s something they can lay claim to? Well, maybe. The evidence, below.
It appears the term is from an October 1979 story by former editor-in-chief Lee Eisenberg titled "America’s Most Powerful Lunch," (which is just not online anywhere) all about the dealings that happened during the noon hour at The Four Seasons.
But is it? A little digging reveals a Times story called "Le Plat Du Jour Is Power," which ran in the paper on January 26, 1977 — almost three full years before the Esquire story. (The story is here, but you’ll have to pony up four bucks if you want to read it.) The Times story, which is also sort of about lunch at The Four Seasons, but also sort of about eating small-portion sizes as a means of establishing superiority over your dining companions, has lines like "food is power, and fuels most of the deals in town"; "the most powerful place to eat lunch in town … is the grill room of The Four Seasons"; and "powerful people eat in order to be seen with other powerful people." The story’s author, Michael Korda, even calls said people "Powerlunchers." But! Nowhere in the story does the term "power lunch" appear. So Esquire might get it on a technicality. New York Times, you were so close!