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Employees have a healthy appetite for food delivery services as they adjust to working from home, according to a new report into the most popular travel and expense categories in the U.S. during the first half of this year.

Employer-provided meals have seen a big rise, with food delivery services increasing 110 percent compared to the first six months of 2019. “Supplies” are also on the up.

The breakdown of the most common expense categories, published by expense software provider Certify, provides an interesting snapshot into travel and pricing trends now emerging in lockdown culture.

What’s Cooking?

The rather vague “miscellaneous items” was the number one category in the Certify SpendSmart Report, published by parent company Emburse, totaling 16.5 percent of receipts by category.

But meals made up 15.8 percent of receipts submitted. The average expense submitted was $45.35, a $7.18 increase on the year before.

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In the home-delivery category that more than doubled, DoorDash increased its market share, accounting for 36 percent of expenses submitted, compared to 25.1 percent for Grubhub, 17.1 percent for Uber Eats and 11.5 percent for Postmates.

The average DoorDash receipt totaled $57.51.

In terms of non-delivery dining (covering breakfast, lunch and dinner) Starbucks was the most frequently expensed restaurant, with 22.9 percent share. On the list, Dunkin’ Donuts was fifth at 6.6 percent.

Desk Bound

Employees have also been shopping around to set up their new home-working environments, as the “supplies” category increased by 82 percent compared to the first half of 2019 making up 8.7 percent of receipts.

“In other signs of a major shift away from business travel to working from home, vendors such as Amazon and Walmart saw a significant increase in their share of business expenses,” the report said.

Amazon’s share of receipts more than doubled over the same period in 2019, while Walmart’s share of receipts grew by 30 percent.

Despite corporate travel almost grinding to a halt, the study does gives a snapshot into which brands are still being expensed.

In keeping with a general trend to avoid public taxis, Uber and Lyft stole the limelight in the ride-hailing category. Uber had a 71.9 percent market share, compared to 24 percent for Lyft and just 4.1 percent for taxis.

The taxi category experienced a 32.7 percent decline compared to the first half of 2019.

For car rental providers, spend grew 6.4 percent over the same period in 2019, with  National Car Rental, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Hertz Car Rental, Budget Car Rental and Avis Car Rental in the top five.

Among the five most expensed airlines (American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Alaska Airlines), the average airline ticket price fell 5.6 percent over the same period in 2019.

American Airlines overtook Delta as the most expensed airline in the first half of 2020.

The five most expensed hotel chains comprised Marriott, Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn, where average spend increased by 2 percent over the same period in 2019.

The Bigger Picture

Unfortunately the Certify SpendSmart report doesn’t specify exactly how many receipts were collated, but Emburse says 4.5 million business travelers, finance professionals and CFOs, across 14,000 organizations in 120 countries, use its solutions.

It’s not really a shock to see work-from-home expenses dominate the first half of the year, but the report reveals that the number of expenses submitted has fallen by two-thirds compared to the first half of 2019, highlighting the pandemic’s devastating effect on company activities.

Certify said that the sudden rise in certain categories reinforces the need for corporates to keep a close eye on reviewing and analyzing company spending,  particularly with jumps in staff shopping on Amazon.

Companies like Salesforce certainly already are, as last week it announced it would give employees $250 to kit out their new home office, with staff now having the option of working from home until August 2021.

There’s also more expense scrutiny due to smaller travel programs, and the fact they can help build up a picture of where employees are actually located.

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a surge in enquiries about travel and expense,” said Jane Worrow, sales director for UK & Europe at Grasp Technologies.

“There are a couple of key reasons. As core travel programs have diminished in size and scale, a lot of corporates have had the time to focus on their travel and expense strategy. And as travel managers have had to work far more closely with their security teams, their finance and procurement colleagues and human resources, being able to monitor a traveler’s every move is vital to help them manage risk and build confidence throughout their businesses.”

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Photo Credit: Employees have been shopping around to set up their new home-working environments. Beazy / Unsplash