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%), as opposed to most Millennials (51%) 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%) of diners we surveyed had dining-related apps on their mobile phones.
Yelp is the most popular app among business diners. 53% of business diners said they used the Yelp app. Others in the top 5 were TripAdvisor (50%), GrubHub (36%), OpenTable (34%), and Uber Eats (34%).
Different generations use dining technology differently. Millennials are more prone to use delivery apps (45% used Uber Eats), while Boomers are more likely to use review-oriented apps like Yelp (74%).
Business diners want to eat like a local, but want ‘tried and true’
Most diners seek out local flavors. 77% of business travelers said they preferred to “eat like a local,” and half (49%) researched foods that were unique to their destination.
Brand recognition is still important. 59% 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%) of respondents said their company enforced a per diem. More common is encouragement to use guidelines instead (41%).
It’s not always cut and dry. Nearly a quarter of respondents (22%) 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% 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% said their company had no formal dining policy at all.
Let’s face it business travel can be tedious. Flight delays, mediocre dinners in the hotel lobby, stressful meetings and of course, more flying. So, the next time you’re packing your bags be sure to throw that Hawaiian shirt in with your business khakis and build some exploration time into your agenda, especially in the summer when it seems like everyone else on your flight is on holiday!
This August business people from all over the world will descend on San Diego for the Global Business Travel Association annual conference. I admit San Diego is not a tough assignment, but if you tread a straight path between your hotel and the convention center you risk missing the So Cal experience. It’s not difficult to find fun local activities, especially with the convention center sitting on the waterfront downtown. So, allow me to offer a few ideas for your next business trip in America’s Finest City.
Downtown San Diego is home to Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. If you’re a baseball fan then this state of the art baseball experience is sure to impress. Catch a fly ball, or enjoy the game with a cold one and take in the atmosphere.
If you’re looking to experience a little Puerto Nuevo style seafood without actually crossing into Mexico, Rockin’ Baja Lobster has a location right downtown in the Gaslamp Quarter. Venturing just north of downtown there is another Rockin’ Baja in Old Town. A trip to Old Town will transport you back in time as it is the oldest settled area in San Diego. Here you’ll discover historic buildings dating back to 1820.
Downtown is also home to one of the largest “Little Italy” neighborhoods in the country and is a thriving pedestrian market place with restaurants, shops, wineries and more. If you set out to explore this historic area, make time to grab a bite at Indigo Grill. With a fire pit patio, it’s the perfect place to enjoy “Modern Latin Cuisine.”
Another downtown favorite for “social dining” is Searsucker. There are plenty of small plates to share, grilled octopus…duck wings…mushroom crepes…yes, please! If you’re in the mood for something heartier, the prime dry aged New York strip with Japanese sweet potato and shishito chimichurri will not disappoint.
Balboa Park is in close proximity to downtown and this 1,200-acre urban oasis offers something for everyone. Museums, gardens, trails, theatre, the world-famous San Diego Zoo and of course, food! The award-winning Prado at Balboa Park in the House of Hospitality offers both indoor and outdoor dining. A beautiful setting to taste the local San Diego brew with your lunch or dinner.
If you crave waterfront dining, Coronado Island is a quick 15-minute boat ride across the bay from the convention center ferry stop. Once you arrive at the Coronado Ferry Landing, head to Il Fornaio and sample some of its award winning Italian cuisine. Il Fornaio’s dining room and patio provide a glorious front and center view of the beautiful San Diego skyline.
Another perfect vantage point for dining with a view is Coasterra, at the tip of Harbor Island just a short drive from the convention center. You will enjoy panoramic views of the harbor and city while feasting on modern Mexican cuisine.
Lastly if you can sneak away long enough to escape to La Jolla, a beautiful village offering ample dining options. Whisknladle is considered a “neighborhood gem” where inspired dishes featuring local ingredients change frequently to capture the freshest flavors of the season. According to Edible San Diego, “the modern-rustic, indoor-outdoor dining room screams La Jolla chic.”
Across the way sister restaurant Catania features fresh, authentic, handcrafted Italian fare. Earning top accolades since opening, Catania’s perch on the top floor of the La Plaza Center offers stunning views of La Jolla and the Pacific beyond.
A La Jolla classic George’s at the Cove hosts three venues in one building. You can savor “California Modern” cuisine on the first level; on “Level2” you’ll be treated to an elevated cocktail experience featuring classic and innovative modern creations; and one level up is George’s Ocean Terrace, overlooking the Pacific, which Travel and Leisure named “one of the world’s hottest rooftop restaurants.”
I hope I’ve lured you away from ordering room service and provided ample opportunity to put on that Hawaiian shirt and own your San Diego experience!