Tracking and managing dining expenses is a huge headache for businesses.

Unlike airfares and hotel rates, most managers can’t negotiate preferred rates with restaurants to constrain spending.

Dinova, a marketplace that connects business travelers with preferred restaurants, is looking to incentivize travelers to eat at network restaurants with new perks. It has introduced a loyalty program for business travelers, allowing them to earn points based on their spending at network restaurants. They can then spend those points on gift certificates they can use at networked restaurants when they’re at home.

Under Dinova’s new model, businesses get a cash rebate on employees’ dining spend, employees get bonus points to spend on restaurant gift cards, and restaurants get increased demand from high-spending business travelers. The whole process is managed on the back-end by Dinova and all invoicing happens seamlessly.

According to Dinova’s data, meals and entertainment are the third highest travel expenditure for companies. The company has initially faced a challenge in encouraging business travelers to dine at restaurants inside the network.

“Our model has gained great uptake from corporations because they’re getting the rebates they’re looking for,” said Vic Macchio, CEO of Dinova. “The one missing link has been from the perspective of the end-user. As the culture in corporations has shifted over the past decade to provide more autonomy, most travel managers recognize you get more flies with honey than vinegar. Everything they’re trying to drive has some benefit to the end-user.”

Dinova gets a cut of the rebate that is returned to the corporation, so participating in their marketplace costs nothing upfront for both corporations and restaurants. Large companies like Siemens, Philips and SAP and hundreds of smaller businesses are part of the network.

Dinova expects more travel managers to educate travelers about the service, now that they will have tangible motivation to eat at partner restaurants.

“There’s nothing like having that individual incentive there for business travelers,” said Macchio.

Photo Credit: Diners at a San Francisco restaurant. Steve McClanahan / Flickr