Should Your Employer Pay For Meals On Business Trips?

Should Your Employer Pay For Meals On Business Trips?

When you’re filing expenses at the end of a work trip, there will often be quite a few meals on the list. Is that entirely reasonable, given that you’d have to eat anyway?

Business meal picture from Shutterstock

Business Insider founder and publisher Henry Blodget discusses the issue in a recent post. Essentially, the argument boils down to this:

  • Against: you have to eat anyway, so why should work be paying for that?
  • For: when travelling, your choices are more restricted and more expensive.

I’m generally in the latter camp, but always aim not to spend too much when I’m on the road for work. What’s your take? Think it’s the least your boss can do when you’re taking extra time on the road, or figure it’s not worth the hassle and makes you look greedy? Tell us in the comments.


  • I’m in the latter.

    When I’m at home, I can generally spend under 10 bucks a night on food (bachelor man, making a weeks worth of meals in one curry = cheap as anything), but going out somewhere you’re probably not familiar with makes that price hard to come by.

  • Place I used to work for, I’d head out for an overnight stay once a month to provide support to our further out offices.

    We’d get a meal allowance. Lunch/breakfast no more than $20, dinner no more than $30. You’d just keep the receipts and claim back that money.

    Although work wouldn’t cover the lunch on the first day, but they’d cover every meal after that.

  • travelling for work is no some booze filled glamour romp, only one company i worked for didn’t pay lunch when travelling and it annoyed me.

  • Yeah, can’t see how this is an issue. You can’t eat what you would normally eat (which for most people would be a fair bit cheaper), so you should be compensated for the cost.

  • Travelling from work is no free-ride. There’s a real opportunity cost because your effectively stuck in some hotel when you could be doing something worthwhile at home. I see the comped meals as being just a small return.

  • I don’t understand the against argument: you have to eat anyway, so why should work be paying for that?

    Um, I have to sleep anyway, so should I also pay for the hotel out my own pocket when I’d rather be at home with my family?

    Fortunately my employer understands that travelling for work is more of inconvenience to employees than a pleasure so they give us a credit card (and some ground rules for spending – I’m not a politician) for the incidentals such as food, taxis, etc.

  • The biggest issue is what kind of room do you stay in when travelling overnight(s)? Invariably it’s the cheapest – ie a bed and bathroom, rather than a kitchen. This forces the employee to eat out whereas at home they would have supplies generally and thus the day’s expenses will be far lesser.

    Every place I have worked eventually settles on this system: For every night away, the ATO standard rate for meals and incidentals is paid tax free to the employee once they return via an allowance form. It ends up being about $118 for 3 meals and incidentals.

    • You look at porn anyway, so why should I have to pay for your hotel’s Wi-Fi connection? Actually, that one’s pretty valid.

  • That’s not at all equivalent to not having to pay at all.
    If you travel for business, the business should pay all meals as you’re spending much more on food. Unless it’s specifically in your contract.

  • I get meal allowances for work travel. Whether I spend more or less doesn’t matter, if I’m away for work overnight I get dinner, breakfast, incedentals and lunch if it’s more than 1 night. The allowance also depends if it’s rural (less allowance) or city (more allowance). If I want to eat cheap and crap I can save a bit of money but usually it breaks even.

  • You should be compensated for the “inconvenience” of not being home/with family for at least meals, fer cryin’ out loud.
    And even if it’s part of your job description/salary package Company travel is (usually) for their benefit not yours, so any business costs shouldn’t have to come out of your own pocket.

  • As has been mentioned, work travel is rarely (if ever) a “holiday” from the regular office. Most days away I just want to “go home and flake on the couch and heat something quick and easy from the freezer”. I claim expenses for my meals when travelling. I think as long as you don’t go stupid and order lobster and $100 bottles of wine every night, then whatever is easily available is fine. I’ll happily let work pay for a $12 ham/cheese toastie and a $5 latte at the airport if I’m there to catch a 6.20am flight to make a 9am meeting in Sydney – thereby saving the company a nights accom. It’s give and take and be sensible IMO.

    Often I will just choose room service in the hotel room, esp if I’m just in the mood to chill and relax at the end of travel work day. Most times I usually sit there with the laptop doing work anyway, so “The Man” wins anyway by me ordering food in.

    If I’m on a trip of more than 2-3 days I will usually treat myself to one nice restaurant meal… but that’s the other thing when travelling for work – eating alone. It’s a bit awkward sometimes IMO.

  • Latter – although I do limit the costs myself by getting breakfast supplies or using supermarkets for some items (and not claiming snacks or incidentals)

  • To all the commenters who think people travelling for work should be compensated for time away from their families: are you referring to something on top of the already high salaries of people who travel for work? I would assume that a higher salary is the implied compensation, am I wrong?

  • Geeee I think we miss the main point, one cannot be disadvantaged from your normal life style when travelling, so equal to or greater than NOT! less than and no where near equal to. So if you buy a $20 steak and all the trimmings at Woolworths and take it to a restaurant and get the chef to whip it up for you for 5 bucks, be careful you will be wearing a meat cleaver for a head dress, its not about not being silly but about what you enjoy as a normal civilised human being in the comfort of your own home, I am positive all bosses have MacDonald’s when THEY travel so why shouldn’t the bottom feeders

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