Business dining is a $77 billion business in the U.S.

What do business diners look like?
The truth is, it’s hard to say. With Millennials soon to make up the majority of the workforce and rapid shifts in corporate culture, a business diner could be the 25-year-old in a hoodie grabbing a bite at the airport, or a suited-up professional wining and dining clients at a steakhouse.
While we’ve been able to pinpoint common misconceptions about the business diner, we wanted to take it a step further. Business dining is a $77 billion business in the U.S. making it the third largest T&E category, but little formal research has been done to understand the habits and preferences of business diners—until now.
To help participating companies make the most of Dinova, we partnered with Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) to conduct a detailed, first-of-its-kind survey of corporate card-holding professionals who travel for work. The result? Surprising insights into business travelers dining habits, technology use, and attitudes toward company expense policies.

As we dug into the research, we found some interesting facts that we weren’t expecting:

Generational differences in business dining

  • The longer the career, the larger the tab. Baby Boomers tend to look for upscale dining choices when they travel (79 percent), as opposed to most Millennials (51 percent) who opt for fast food.
  • Gen Xers are most likely to be part of a pack. About a third of Gen Xers said they typically had lunch or dinner with coworkers while on business. Millennials seem to prefer solo, on-the-go dining.
  • Millennials are less comfortable expensing extras. The majority (2 out of 3) said they hesitated to expense “extras” like coffee and snacks. That number was only 1 of 3 for Boomers, and 1 of 2 for Gen Xers.

How business diners use food & restaurant technology

  • Business diners have embraced mobile apps. The majority (63 percent) of diners we surveyed had dining-related apps on their mobile phones.
  • Yelp is the most popular app among business diners. 53 percent of business diners said they used the Yelp app. Others in the top 5 were TripAdvisor (50 percent), GrubHub (36 percent), OpenTable (34 percent), and Uber Eats (34 percent).
  • Different generations use dining technology differently. Millennials are more prone to use delivery apps (45 percent used Uber Eats), while Boomers are more likely to use review-oriented apps like Yelp (74 percent).

Business diners want to eat like a local, but want ‘tried and true’

  • Most diners seek out local flavors. 77 percent of business travelers said they preferred to “eat like a local,” and half (49 percent) researched foods that were unique to their destination.
  • Brand recognition is still important. 59 percent of business travelers find comfort in having “trusted brands” as available options when they travel.

Many companies offer lenient dining policies, and reward programs are catching on

  • Per diems aren’t required. One in three (34 percent) of respondents said their company enforced a per diem. More common is encouragement to use guidelines instead (41 percent).
  • It’s not always cut and dry. Nearly a quarter of respondents (22 percent) said they have no formal dining policy at all.
  • Careful with the money. Even with this in mind, diners aren’t always comfortable asking for reimbursement on all items. 46 percent of respondents said they were concerned about appearing irresponsible for expensing things outside of policy.
  • Corporate dining policies are flexible, and sometimes non-existent. Only 1 in 3 professionals surveyed said their company enforces a per diem. Another 22 percent said their company had no formal dining policy at all.

For a more in-depth look at the study’s results, download the whitepaper here

What did you find most surprising about the research? How will you use the findings to drive your business?

Want more? Return to The Fork!

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