The 60-year-old upscale dining spot hasn’t been able to hold onto its clientele, Four Seasons managing partner Alex von Bidder told CNN Business on Saturday, and its investors “lacked the confidence to fund it for another year or six months.”
Forty years ago, The Four Seasons became known as a go-to destination for Wall Streeters, publishers, movie producers and other executives who would hash out business deals amid the lavish decor and seasonal dishes. A 1979 article in Esquire magazine used the term “power lunch” to describe the midday meetings; the phrase and its association with the Four Seasons stuck around for decades.
The restaurant, however, lost its home at the Seagram Building on Manhattan’s Park Avenue when its lease expired in 2016.
Investors shelled out more than $30 million to relocate the establishment a few blocks away, and it reopened in August — but it lost much of its customer base, von Bidder said.
“We didn’t have enough time to make sure they would come back to us,” von Bidder said. “People would eat [at the Four Seasons] two or three times per week. Then all of a sudden it’s gone for two years. They fell out of habit.”
He added that the idea of the power lunch “has dramatically changed over time,” and the crowd that used to regularly have extravagant lunches “are getting on in their age.”
There’s also been a decline in the number of parties and events booked at the restaurant. And von Bidder acknowledged that Four Seasons price points are prohibitive for many diners: Its current listing of lunch entrées include a $36 tuna burger, the cheapest option, and a $56 poached halibut. Dinner starts at $40 for mushroom ravioli.
“We didn’t see a clear path with the current sales,” von Bidder said.
His longtime business partner, Julian Niccolini, was reportedly forced to resign in December after taking a two-year leave from the business following allegations of sexual misconduct. Von Bidder said Saturday that Niccolini’s behavior was “not acceptable” and that the Four Seasons had “no choice but to make a change.” He said it’s “anybody’s guess” how much the controversy may have affected the restaurant’s business.
According to the Times, Niccolini pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in March 2016. He told the paper last fall, “It is something of the past.” CNN Business was unable to reach Niccolini for comment on Saturday.