Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The New Slogan - `Let's Not Do Lunch'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The New Slogan - `Let's Not Do Lunch'

Article excerpt

JUST about the time the phrase "Let's do lunch" became popular, the noon meal began falling on hard times.

The latest sign of changing social patterns comes from London, where an elite luncheon club, the Gresham, closed its doors and went on the auction block last week. Membership at the 150-year-old institution in the financial district had dropped from 500 to 370, and only one-fifth of those actually took time to eat at the club. Bankers and lawyers who once regarded a leisurely midday meal at the Gresham as an entitlement now stay in the office at noon, afraid they might miss something if they leave their computers. Their new downscale lunch, as disdainfully reported by the club secretary, consists of a sandwich and a can of diet soda.

Londoners are not the only ones foregoing the pleasure of an unhurried lunch. The Ritz-Carlton in Boston no longer opens its dining room for lunch. And from CEOs to clerks, more workers are "eating in," turning cluttered desks into tables for one. As they nibble absently on salads and brown-bag sandwiches, these solitary diners meet deadlines, read professional journals, answer mail, and return phone calls.

Lunch hour used to be a much anticipated event - a kind of mini-vacation in the middle of the day. Underlings, mindful of their limited budgets and ticking time clocks, dashed to the company cafeteria or modest eateries near the office. Bosses headed for white-tablecloth restaurants.

Then came what could be called the "lunch crunch," a no-time-to-eat syndrome that exemplifies the trend toward longer, more demanding work days. Power lunches of the '80s gave way to power breakfasts - less leisurely, less expensive, and ideal for getting people to begin the work day even before they reach the office. At 7 a.m., hotel dining rooms fill with corporate early birds, their spreadsheets and legal pads crowding tables formerly reserved for eggs and toast. At noon, managers who once measured corporate status by their access to executive dining rooms now find themselves too busy to leave the office.

For workers who do venture out, the premium is on getting back before they are missed. Between 11 a. …

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