U.S. enterprise spending on meals trended upward between May and September, according to dining savings specialist Dinova, suggesting a small recovery in business travel activity. September enterprise dining spending was 32 percent of its 2019 level, up from dining spend in May, when such spend was at 15 percent of its 2019 level.
“Between May and September, we observed a continuous upward recovery in enterprise dining spend,” said Dinova CEO Alison Galik.
Dinova analyzed more than 75 million dining transactions by employees of enterprises in the U.S. between January 2019 and September 2020. More than 90 percent of the companies in the sample have more than 1,000 employees, according to Dinova.
Combined with air and hotel indicators, the rise in dining spend suggests U.S. business travelers were driving instead of flying to their destinations to conduct in-person business. Monthly air ticket sales by U.S.-based corporate travel agencies remained down by more than 85 percent year over year in July, August and September, according to the Airlines Reporting Corp. Meanwhile, U.S. third-quarter absolute hotel occupancy was 48 percent, an improvement from 33.5 percent in the second quarter, according to STR. In addition, STR reported August’s absolute U.S. occupancy level was the highest recorded since April.
Pharmaceutical and health care companies significantly have outpaced other companies in terms of dining spend. In September, that sector’s dining spending reached more than 55 percent of its September 2019 level. In contrast, the retail and consumer discretionary sector spent more than 30 percent of its September 2019 dining-spending level. Energy, utilities, financial and IT companies spent below 15 percent of their September 2019 level.
Meanwhile, Dinova told BTN that small and midsize enterprises are recovering twice as fast as large enterprises when it comes to dining spend, according to Dinova. In October, SME sector dining spend was 62 percent of its October 2019 level. SMEs, often needing to generate revenue during these tough economic times and sometimes facing less structural impediments to travel than large enterprises, are using restaurant venues more often to maintain and strengthen relationships with clients, according to Galik.