Diners, Drive-ins, and Disgusting Business Meals

I recently had the opportunity, misfortune of going on a business trip. And, while I’ve talked before about the joy of booking business travel, what I haven’t really discussed is eating while on the business trip.

Champagne and Caviar Dreams


While traveling for business, it is expected that your meals will be reimbursed by the company. Typically, this means expensing of meals via the post-trip expense report. Sometimes, however, this means having your superior take you out to a meal where he or she puts it on their expense report.

Pro-Tip: Whenever possible, go to meals with someone higher up the company ladder than you, because per most company policies they need to pay.

+1 for one less thing to put on your expense report.
-1 or more for having to eat with management.

In my book, I’ll take the loss and go with management because I know we’ll eat way better than if I stick to my expense limits. Plus, I won’t have to deal with remembering to keep the receipt. And, in most cases there will be at least a few people there so as to deflect some uncomfortable conversations.

Speaking of expense limits, meals are always a challenge for me. I’m a foodie. I love food. Thankfully, I have a pretty good metabolism because I like to eat. The good news is that I can find joy in a really good taco truck as well as a five-star restaurant.  But, despite my tastes, there are company rules.

Pretty much every company has a Travel and Expense Policy which, among other things, covers how much you can spend per meal as well as how to expense meals.

Our company acts very conservative in this area. Generally, I’m all for the whole fiscally conservative thing, but there’s being frugal and there’s being cruel. I mean even prisoners get three-square a day.

Our policy states that for breakfast you can spend no more than $12. As a foodie, and someone who listened to my Mom, I know that the only way to start the day is with a good breakfast. I could honestly, eat breakfast for any meal of the day…mmmm…Bacon!

Now if I were making that breakfast at home, for $12 I could make some of CV’s Famous Omelets (famous with the Missus anyway) for the whole family and likely not spend $12 total. But, on the road..fuhgettaboutit. Last time I went to get breakfast at the hotel it cost $18 just for the buffet…before tax and tip!  Hotel’s seriously screw you on breakfast, because they know that you’re unlikely to go off premise for breakfast.

So, having learned I was off to the small coffee bar for a big ass cup of fully loaded coffee and a bagel. That turned out to be about $11+ after tax. Worst part, they gave me some small packaged cream cheese that barely covered one side of the slightly old/hard bagel. Eat half. Toss half in the garbage. Mom wouldn’t approve of that start to the day.

Don’t forget the receipt!

A bunch of meetings, handshakes, promises to follow-up the next week when I’m back in the office and it’s on to lunch a few hours later.

Our lunch policy states that we may spend no more than $15. Who came up with these numbers by the way? Anywhoo, once again, no place to eat except the food court at the Convention Center.  Sigh…to eat a pre-packaged Turkey and Cheese sandwich with limp lettuce and mayo (I hate mayo) for $12 that looks like the airline just dropped shipped it here…

Or, do I eat the pick 3 items resembling deep fried chucks of Bridgestone tire Chinese food for $14?

Did I mention that a water-downed soda in a cup three-fourths full of ice at both places costs $3? Bastards!

My kingdom for a $5 footlong. And, no that’s not sex code for some seriously questionable club act on the Vegas strip.

After what seems like five minutes of looking at the Kung Pao Crap and the Moo Shu Poo,  I see a counter with what appears to be a Cobb Salad in a plastic box eyeing me. A salad for $10?!?! Well, if I get this I just might be able to get a small bottled water. Score! Plus, it’s theoretically healthy. OK fine, it’s healthier than the low profile sweet and sour tire…I hope.

Don’t forget the receipt!

Two hours later…Dear God, where’s the bathroom?

A few more meetings go by and 5 o’clock rolls around – I’m feeling much better. That is until our VP comes by and says, if you all don’t have plans (i.e. I still expect you to get caught up on email, but…) I’d like to take the group out to dinner to say thanks.

Good for him. It’s not often that the man thanks us. Bottom line, I know that I’ll get a better meal than I could afford on my allotted $25 dinner allowance.

Bossman says to wait for an email confirming the time and location. So it’s off to the bar with a couple co-workers.  Fortunately, these two coworkers just so happen to be the only two coworkers I’d like to go to the bar and have a drink with vs. going to the bar to drink and forget about.

OK our game plan is two bar drinks max. Not because we don’t want to get loaded. No it’s because bossman will pay for good wine at dinner and we don’t want to be so loaded we can’t enjoy it.

Three iPhones all vibrate at once (yes, vibrate…people turn off your ringers!) indicating that bossman has sent us our marching orders.

Dinner time!

Er…not yet. We’re to meet at 8? Ugh. You know what that means right? It means, 15 of the 18 people show up at 8:30. We get initial cocktails at 8:45ish. Orders are taken at 9:15. Meals arrives around 10. Desert comes around 11:30.

Well, the meal tasted great, but it was pretty heavy and rich which causes me to make a mental note:

Must work out in the  morning.

This is about the time I gaze at my watch, knowing I have to wake up at 6 am to get ready for some business breakfast meeting (ugh food sounds horrible), and think, “shoulda fucking gone to that sushi bar with my two happy-place coworkers.”

This is when the party-people start talking about going out drinking. This is also when I typically deploy what’s known as Tactic G, where G stands for Get the Fuck Out of This.

And, with that I casually mention having to go to the bathroom. Having already said my thank you’s to the bossman, instead of hitting the men’s room, I hit the front door and head off to the elevator bank leading to my room.

Finally, I lay down in bed and I smile. But, that quickly fades as I’m sure I’ll wake up around 3 am feeling like shit.

P.S. Screw the workout.

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About CubicleViews

Observations, thoughts & random bitching about cube life, food, beer, wine, whiskey and sometimes politics. Living the dream in a 6×8 doorless polyester walled cell.
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4 Responses to Diners, Drive-ins, and Disgusting Business Meals

  1. free penny press says:

    I’m not sure which is worse.. eating while traveling or having to attend the “not-mandatory but if you don’t show up we’ll talk about you like a dog” after work functions.. If I have to go to one more wing place I’ll scream and can’t expense those little jaunts..Now about that salad you chose….

  2. Pingback: The Weekly TPS Report – August 31 | The Cubicle Views

  3. Pingback: Expense reports, passwords and the threat of an angry wife | The Cubicle Views

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