Business meal expenses are under scrutiny again. The Reagan Administration's tax package would permit companies to deduct all of their meal expenses up to $25 per person per meal. Above that limit, only half the expenses would be deductible.
The plan could mean trouble for your company, depending on where and when you dine. A recent survey by Laventhol & Horwath, the national accounting firm, found that meal costs exceed $75 a day, including tax and tip, only in New York City. But dinner runs more than $25 in 52 cities -- and these figures don't include any of the wine and liquor that often accompany business meals. With drinks, an executive could easily run up a $40 lunch bill in many locations. Costs vary widely: In New York City, a dinner of shrimp cocktail, prime rib, salad, vegetables, ice cream, and coffee costs an average of $47.79; you can eat the same meal in Melbourne, Fla., for only $17.03.
L&H found that the average cost of travel, including meals, lodging, and rental car, was $137.66 a day. Some cities were surprisingly inexpensive in one category but scored high overall. Boston and Philadelphia, while not in the top 10 for meal costs, ranked second and fifth overall because of expensive hotel rooms and rental cars. Once again, Melbourne had the lowest overall costs -- $96.51 a day, just a bit more than the cost of three meals in the Big Apple. Here are the 10 cities with the highest meal costs.
Rank City Breakfast Lunch Dinner Total
1. New York City $4.72 $25.26 $47.79 $87.77
2. Washington, D.C. 10.85 18.68 35.24 64.77
3. Dallas 11.90 19.68 32.24 63.82
4. San Francisco 12.33 19.06 31.90 63.29
5. Santa Barbara, Calif. 10.67 16.12 32.39 59.18
6. Seattle 10.01 16.22 31.37 57.60
7. Houston 10.61 15.75 31.17 57.53
8. New Orleans 9.45 16.80 30.75 57.00
9. Chicago 9.40 14.74 32.28 56.42
10. Los Angeles 9.82 16.75 29.15 55.72