Average national meal limits for business travellers revealed in American Express Global Business Travel whitepaper

16 May, 2019

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) has launched its meal expense whitepaper, 'Savings for Cravings'. While air and hotel expenses have been a core focus of travel and expense (T&E) management for many years, challenges regarding policy creation and spend visibility mean that meal expenditure limits have been difficult to enforce.

Developed by the Global Business Consulting team at GBT, the meal expense whitepaper examines tactics and policies that optimise what is widely seen as the third largest corporate T&E category.

Harris Manlutac, GBT's Head of Global Business Consulting, APAC, said: "Many companies have adopted a standardised global meal policy with limits set by destination. These policies can be effective, when adhered to, in controlling spend. However, for multinational organisations, such policies can be difficult to create. We find in many instances that compliance is driven by the attitude of an employee's line manager.

"A common approach is to set traveler per diem limits. However, as rates can vary greatly between countries it can create challenges. For example, employees from a country with a low per diem rate may often travel to countries where food is expensive. At the same time, a colleague from a different country with higher per diem rate may be on the same business trip, highlighting the disparity. "

In a list of 20 key countries, GBT data has revealed that Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) have the equal highest meal allowances for breakfast (USD$33), France and Spain have the equal highest lunch allowances (USD$55), while the UK also has the highest dinner allowance (USD$86).

Cultural differences, food preferences, and dining styles can vary significantly depending on an employee's origin, home country, age, and other demographics. Providing flexibility as part of a policy can, therefore, by advantageous, according to the whitepaper findings. For example, travelers should be able to spend beyond their meal limits while staying within a prescribed daily limit or quota. Organisations should also consider this practice when staff or external business partners attend meetings, as exceeding a quota for one specific meal may be appropriate.

Manlutac continued: "One of the biggest assets that a company can have is visibility over what employees spend. When employees book flights and accommodation according to their company's approved travel policy, the recorded travel volume data can be used by companies to negotiate the best rates with suppliers. By having effective policies, and spend visibility, meal expense data can also be mobilised as a tool through a number of tactics, such as negotiations with preferred dining programs. This is a huge growth area for companies looking at new ways to drive considerable savings. We expect technologies, such as mobile apps, to be tracking and supporting meal spend behaviours in the very near future."

A copy of the meal expense whitepaper, 'Savings for Cravings', can be downloaded here.

Based on American Express Global Business Travel internal data November, 2018.