Would You Expense a $100 Turkey Sandwich?

Most of us would agree that $100 is a lot to pay for a turkey sandwich. Even if the company is paying (and even if it is amazingly good!), that’s still crazy expensive. But as unbelievable as it might sound, that’s often the total cost of a meal when it’s on the company’s dime.

If there’s food in your office and you’d like to keep it that way (or you want more of it), read on, because there are a few very common traps that could be adding zero’s to your food bill.

Whether it’s employees expensing late night meals, a free lunch program, or catered client meetings, food is a bigger line item on the balance sheet than most companies realize. And that line item isn’t shrinking anytime soon. In fact, the role and importance of food in the office is expanding rapidly (see here, and here and here).

Over the past 12 years, Seamless has worked with companies across the country to help streamline and consolidate the food ordering and billing process. During this time, Seamless has collected a mountain of data related to food in the workplace and more importantly, the true impact of all this food on a company’s bottom line. In fact, factors such as manual processing of invoices and expense reports and employee abuse, can drive up the true cost by nearly 30 percent.

Here are a few of the most common things we’ve seen that contribute to the issue:

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There’s more money spent on food in your office than you think.

As we mentioned above – food’s important. No one does their best work on an empty stomach. (Need proof? Check out these awesome candy bar ads that illustrate the point perfectly.) The fact that most companies do not have a holistic view of their food spend actually costs the company money and robs them of the opportunity to make informed decisions around that spend. I bet if you asked the finance team how much they spend on computers last year, they’d have a number…

Time is money and it takes a ton of both to process all the invoices and expense reports that result from ordering food.

Think about your company’s finance processes. How many people touch an invoice or expense report before the final check is sent? Sterling Commerce found that manually-processed invoices cost, on average, $30 each to process in their entirety. The same study found that if there are any errors, such as a lost invoice or inaccurate information, it can cost as much $53 to rectify.

Budget creep happens and it adds up.

Would you make an employee repay the company $1? Probably  not. The same goes for most companies because, in isolation, the price tag seems small. But when people consistently ignore budget rules, companies pay the price – literally and figuratively.

Employees take advantage, sad but true.

According to Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, employee fraud clocks in at more than $600 billion in the US, with roughly 68 percent of employees partaking in some form of unethical behavior. That’s a crazy high number (and maybe the counted borrowing pens…) but regardless, without a way to monitor and enforce guidelines, abuse will happen.

There are lots of meals that should be billed out to a client, and they’re not.

For law firms, agencies, consultants and just about all professional services firms, it’s incredibly important to track expenses – especially if those expenses are ultimately going to be billed to a client. But without accurate and complete information, many companies are forced to absorb the costs instead of billing out for them.

All in, you can see how a $10 turkey sandwich can add up quickly. Additional details on the information and ideas presented in this blog post can be found in Seamless‘ recently released white paper, “More Bread for Less Dough: How online food ordering and billing can eliminate the hidden costs of feeding the office.” Download the white paper here.

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