Coronavirus affected employee expense trends, especially meals and travel

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The novel coronavirus pandemic led to a transition from employer-provided meals to food delivery services arriving at employee homes, as workers all but eliminated their travel expenses, according to a new report.

The Certify SpendSmart report, from expense management software provider Emburse, showed a huge increase in expenses for food deliveries and employee purchases for home offices.

Food delivery services grew 110 percent annually, as DoorDash upped its market share. In contrast, Uber Eats lost significant ground in both market share and the amount of average spending. DoorDash continued its leadership position in the sector, making up 36 percent of expenses submitted, compared to 25.1 percent for Grubhub, 17.1 percent for Uber Eats and 11.5 percent for Postmates.

DoorDash also experienced significant growth in market share, up from 29.5 percent in 2019, while Grubhub declined slightly from 27.3 percent and Uber Eats saw a sharp plummet from 25.6 percent. However, the average amount spent with Grubhub was significantly higher than DoorDash, at $74.52 compared to $57.51, and $34.96 for Uber Eats.

Grubhub also grew its average amount spent by 23 percent year over year, compared with only 6 percent for DoorDash. In contrast, Uber Eats’ average spend shrank by 26 percent year over year.

Travel and hospitality

Business travel all but ceased entirely as a result of the pandemic, but some industries did a better job of maintaining their pricing despite the economic downturn.

In the airline industry, 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 compared to the same period in 2019.

In the hotel industry, among the five most expensed hotel chains (Marriott, Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn), average spending increased 2 percent over the same period last year.

Among the five most expensed car rental providers (National Car Rental, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Hertz Car Rental, Budget Car Rental and Avis Car Rental) spending grew 6.4 percent over the same period in 2019.

Ride-hailing services

The two major ride-sharing giants continued to cut in on taxis’ razor thin market share. Uber stayed the category leader by far, with a 71.9 percent market share, compared to 24 percent for Lyft and only 4.1 percent for taxis.

Over the past four years, Uber’s market share has remained steady among business travelers, with most of Lyft’s gains coming at the expense of taxis. In the first half of 2016, Uber had a 72.4 percent market share, with taxis at 23 percent and Lyft at only 4.6 percent.


In other signs of a significant move away from business travel to working from home, vendors such as Amazon and Walmart experienced a big uptick in their share of business expenses. Amazon's share of receipts more than doubled over the same period in 2019. Meanwhile, Walmart’s share of receipts grew 30 percent, as employees equipped their home offices for remote work. The share of receipts for “Supplies” increased over 75 percent since last year.

“The impact of COVID-19 on business travel and the broader economy has been well documented,” said Emburse CEO Eric Friedrichsen in a statement Tuesday. “Employees are still submitting a large number of expenses, but with far more of an emphasis on work-from-home purchases, such as office supplies and internet upgrades.”

He sees more of a trend toward organizations providing benefits such as paid lunches for their employees, and permitting team members to expense equipment such as external monitors and office chairs, helping boost employee morale, well-being and productivity.

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Expense management Expense management software Coronavirus