Restaurateur Julian Niccolini Declares Michael’s the Winner of the Power Lunch Wars

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

DianeClehaneLunch_FeaturedI’ve been chronicling the scene at Michael’s for 10 years now and today ranks among the most epic Wednesday ‘Lunches’ ever. None other than Julian Niccolini (wearing sparkling silver Thom Browne wingtips) sauntered through the dining room. People thought they were seeing things as the displaced restaurateur made his way to the Garden Room to join director Joel Schumacher, Pete Peterson, Jay Peterson, executive producer of the instantly addictive Lip Sync Battle and a few other fellows at their corner table. (Pete likes a quiet spot which are few and far between on Wednesdays. Hence, the table in the back.)

diane-clehane
Dan Fuchs, Diane Clehane and Sara Peterson
Credit:

I had to dash back to Julian’s table to ask the former Four Seasons co-owner what it felt to be a power luncher rather than preside over a room full of them.”The power lunch is right here!” he declared. “There’s nothing but four walls over there.” Obviously still in a reflective mood about the storied restaurant’s closing just last week, he told me without me having to ask: “The thing that keeps a place like this going for 25 years is the incredible people who come here. I have the utmost respect for Michael [McCarty, the owner of Michael’s].” As if you ever had any doubt, that does it. To all the naysayers that have long predicted the demise of the power lunch: it is alive and thriving at Michael’s.

I also got a chance to ask Joel, who directed one of my favorite films of all time (St. Elmo’s Fire!) and recently directed episodes of House of Cards, what he thought of Garry Marshall‘s passing. “Gary was born a mensch and stayed a mensch. He never changed and was incredibly loyal. He picked Julia Roberts for Pretty Woman when she was an unknown. I’m sure he had to fight for her. There are a lot of people very grateful to him.”

OK, now on to the main event. I was joined today by HGTV Magazine’s editor in chief Sara Peterson and publisher Dan Fuchs. All through our lunch I kept thinking about that whole ‘work spouse’ thing. “Hearst launches magazines very smartly. We’re encouraged to work together,” said Dan, who has logged 13 years at the company. “Ideas come from both sides [of the magazine].” This very enthusiastic duo have been at the top of the masthead since the launch of the title five years ago. Both remember every detail of the events leading up to their professional union. Sara was toiling as special projects editor and Dan was the associate publisher of O, the Oprah Magazine. HGTV Magazine was “on the radar for a while,” explained Dan, who said his longtime mentor Michael Clinton advised him to “be patient.”

The magazine, a joint venture between Hearst Magazines and Scripps Networks Interactive, was a hit from the start. “We went out with a rate base of 450,000 and we crushed it,” said Dan. The actual number came in at nearly double their projections.

HGTV Magazine’s June issue was their biggest ever and coincided with the announcement that it will raise its rate base to 1.3 million from 1.25 effective with the January/February 2017 issue. The title is among the top 10 bestselling monthlies at the newsstand and a whole host of advertisers across multiple categories are flocking to its pages.

“Clearly, there was a need for something like this,” said Dan. “We’re a home magazine that feels like a lifestyle magazine. We’re in between Martha Stewart, Oprah and Real Simple at 2 million [circulation] and the traditional shelter books between 40o,ooo and 800,000. We’re at 1.3 million.” He explained that HGTV Magazine’s HHI of $75,000 has enticed advertisers like Mercedes-Benz and beauty companies including L’Oreal, Maybelline and Arden into the book. “We just broke Aveeno. We’re very excited about the beauty category.”