It's lunchtime. At the entrance of Cafe Fleuri in Boston's luxe Langham Hotel, three different men approach and ask if I am Tom, David, or Bill. Nope. Sorry. Not me. Finally, at the stroke of noon, my lunch partner just sort of appears: "Hi, I'm Dick Glovsky." The hostess, with a chipper "Mr. Glovsky," whisks us to our table posthaste. Not bad; form is following function. I am here to study the art of the power lunch.
By now, I've learned one lesson: Never mention "power." Before arranging lunch with Glovsky—a rain-making employment lawyer at Prince, Lobel, Glovsky & Tye and a former U.S. assistant attorney—I had talked to four other high achievers. Each of them winced or laughed when I used the P word. "I don't do power lunches," snorted one, who regularly pitches business—over lunch—to blue-chip CEOs.
The . . . business lunch is coming back, in step with roomier budgets and rosier sales prospects. At Cafe Fleuri, it isn't long before most tables are filled. I turn to ask Glovsky, who has been eating here for more than 10 years and dines out almost every day, how to do it right. "First of all," he says, "I hate the term 'power lunch.' "
Pick the sweet spot.
Glovsky mixes up his venues. When he wants to impress someone with his firm's offices, he'll arrange for a catered lunch in a conference room. But more often, he grabs his coat. "I consider convenience for the other person to be important and, in many ways, almost primary. For any conversation to be fruitful, you want people to be relaxed." So go to them—but maintain a regular haunt, too, someplace impressive where you're on good enough terms to get a table at the last minute.
Let them come to you.
Glovsky usually has a clear goal at lunch: to push his firm's business. But his first meeting with a prospective client isn't always a sell job. "There are times when I might not say anything about my business at that first meeting. If the person doesn't ask, I'm often hesitant to say much. If I can, I want to wait until they show an interest in me."
It's the chemistry, stupid.
Though Glovsky preps with the best of them for meetings with prospective clients, he emphasizes the human side of lunch. "Nobody's going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on you because you took them out to lunch. So what you're trying to do is convey something that will encourage them to use you, whether it's a piece of information or the way you project yourself."
Breakfast is the new lunch.
It really is the most important meal of the day! "I use breakfasts as much as, if not more than, lunches," says Glovsky. "It's the beginning of the day, before things heat up. You can have a more relaxed conversation when you do it early enough. You're not so pressed on the other side to get out."
And call for the check already.
"I always try to leave," Glovsky says, "before we've exhausted the conversation."
The Lunch Life
In recent ads, American Century claims that founder James Stowers Jr. enjoys a peanut-butter sandwich every day. The company's PR folks couldn't confirm this hidebound routine. But other corporate heavies let us peek inside their lunch pails.
Lunchtime staple: Pea-ud buh-er. Peayud budder! "To this day, it's hard for me to turn down a peanut-butter sandwich and an apple. But only Jif peanut butter, not Skippy. My other favorite is the veggie burger at Subway."
Group president of menswear Liz Claiborne
Lunchtime staple: Fruit. Then more fruit. And for dessert, fruit. "I don't think anyone can eat as much fruit as I do. I start in the morning with blueberries and strawberries, and then lunch with bananas and oranges. In the afternoon, it's blueberries."
Founder and CEO
The Princeton Review
Lunchtime staple: Well, define lunchtime. "Often, lunch is a 6 p.m. margarita. Frozen, no salt. It has been a good plan B for 20 years." What's plan C? "Whatever they're serving on the plane."
President and CEO
Hill & Knowlton U.S.A.
Lunchtime staple: Healthy stuff—or not. "When I'm not eating out at a business lunch, soup or salad. Definitely no carbohydrates. When I have no time to eat, a venti-sized Starbucks decaf latte plus a peanut-butter cookie."
Lunchtime staple: One guess. "It's embarrassing. I eat chicken almost every day. At KFC or Popeyes, I always get the meal with chicken and the biscuit. I don't eat the biscuit, but I eat the chicken. Thank heavens for the Atkins diet."
A version of this article appeared in the Table of Contents - April 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.