Should Companies Really Pay For Everything Their Employees Eat While Traveling?

Road chow.

Henry Blodget / Business Insider

Some awesome road chow.

I asked this question of Twitter last night, and I got a lot of smart answers in response.

So I figured I would ask it here as well. Should companies really pay for everything their employees eat while the employees are traveling?
After all, the employees would eat regardless, whether at home or on the road. So it's not instantly clear why their companies should pay for everything they eat while traveling.

I have wondered about this frequently on my current trip, while handing over my credit card to charge things like tea, yogurt, sandwiches, and sushi to Business Insider. I would be eating some of those things anyway, even if I wasn't on a business trip. And if I ate/drank them at home, I wouldn't think of having Business Insider pay for them.

Now, I do own a chunk of Business Insider, so whatever I ask the company to pay for comes back to me eventually anyway, at least in part. And I wouldn't dream of charging the company for something I didn't think it should pay for. But other companies I have worked for have always paid for everything I've eaten on the road, so I have never thought particularly deeply about this.

So, what do you think?

Keep handing over the corporate card to pay for everything you eat and drink on the road (within reason)? Or estimate how much more you are spending than you would be spending if you were eating at home and hit the company up for that?

Or only charge the company for food/drink that is consumed while conducting company business that couldn't be conducted without the food?

Folks on Twitter felt strongly about this one - namely that companies should absolutely pay for what their employees eat on the road. And they had a lot of clear logic to support this view. For instance:

  • Food costs more while traveling, and you're only traveling to help your company, so of course the company should pay.
  • Traveling is unhealthy and a pain in the neck, and you have to do it because of the company, so the company should make it as easy and attractive as possible.
  • When you travel, you have to be away from your family, home, and routines, and that blows, so the least the company can do is help you eat well and stay healthy.
  • The difference between what food costs at home and what food costs while traveling isn't so huge that it's worth calculating that difference.
  • As long as you don't go hog wild, we're talking about a relatively minor expense - say, $50 a day
Some folks did feel that the company should only pay when you're entertaining clients or something. And others suggested that I was only feeling the pain of having the company pay because I own part of the company.

So, what do you think?