Expenses claims are beginning to surpass pre-pandemic levels

Spending on business meals and entertainment is increasing, according to the latest research from SAP Concur
SAP Concur discovered that spending on entertainment increased by more than 10% in the first half of 2023 when compared to the first half of 2019

Spending on business meals and entertainment is surpassing pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest research from SAP Concur

The travel and expense management specialist discovered that spending on entertainment increased by more than 10% (11.86%) in the first half of 2023 when compared to the first half of 2019.  

And, with employees returning to the office in their numbers, spending on meals in the first half of 2023 increased by 9.1%.

“It’s exciting to see the level of entertainment and travel activity returning to pre-pandemic levels,” comments Cassie Petrie, Managing Director of SMB for the EMEA region at SAP Concur. “We firmly believe nothing can replace the value of in-person interactions – and it’s clear businesses feel the same. 

“As we approach the end-of-year holiday season, we expect spending to pick up again. Ahead of this period, HR and finance teams should focus on reminding employees of what is and isn’t covered in meal expenses to ensure compliance.

“Technology can also help finance managers to process the influx of reports and requests that come through during this time. Expense management solutions can automatically check reports for errors and automate internal audit processes using AI, saving finance teams valuable time during ‘busy season’.”

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Big jump in meal and entertainment spending at SMBs

In carrying out its research, SAP Concur analysed expense reports filed by SAP Concur customers in the Concur Expense system from January to June 2023, while also looking at the equivalent time periods from 2019 to 2022. 

The largest increase in entertainment spending was detected at SMBs, where there was a 32% rise, compared to a 4% jump at large organisations. On average, each entertainment expense increased by 23% between 2019 and 2023, from US$123 to US$151. 

During this period, the average meal expense cost also went up by 23%, from US$43 in 2019 to US$55 this year. 

And, once again, SMBs are seemingly spending more on meals, with an average of US$64 per expense report compared to US$53 at large businesses. 

Clearly, this difference may stem from the expense policies in place across organisations and the guardrails around what may and may not be expensed.


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