The University of Memphis

Purchase of Meals


Issued: September 23, 2016
Responsible Official: Vice President for Business & Finance
Responsible Office: Accounting Office

Policy Statement

Policy Statement

All hospitality and special expenses, such as meals, must withstand the test of public scrutiny.  University officials authorized to approve the purchase of meals should exercise prudent judgment when determining whether an expenditure is appropriate.



To provide procedures for requesting and approving reimbursement for the purchase of meals.    


Guest Meals

This applies when one or more University employee(s) purchase(s) meals or refreshments for University guest(s).  These provisions for guest meals do not apply when a guest will be reimbursed under regular travel procedures for meals, which s/he purchased her/himself. Guest Meals include both the guests and University personnel in the same party.

Employee Meals

This includes both regular meals and refreshments for a group of University personnel when not in travel status.  The incidental presence of one or more guests will not change the classification if the occasion is primarily intended for the group of employees.    

Non-Employee Group Meal

This applies when meals or refreshments are purchased for a non-employee group, such as conference participants.  The incidental presence of one or more University employee(s) will not change this classification if the occasion is primarily for the non-employee group.

Individual Meals

The purchase of individual employee meals is not an allowable expense under this procedure.


Appropriateness of the Expenditure

The following principles should be used as a guide when determining the appropriateness of the expenditure:

  • The expenditure must support the mission and purpose of the University. 
  • If for an event, the event must be an authorized official University event.
  • The expenditure should not be personal in nature.
  • Expenses may be incurred only for those individuals whose presence is necessary to the business discussion.
  • It should be apparent to the IRS that the expenditure is not additional compensation to the claimant.
  • The amount expended should be reasonable.
  • University funds may not be used for the purchase of alcoholic beverages.

The President has designated to the Department/Activity Head the authority to approve Meal Reimbursements.


In preparing for the purchase of a guest meal or arranging an event, an individual should ensure that the expenditures being made comply with this policy and should secure verbal approval from the approving authority.

Group meals usually require advance arrangements with the University's food service contractor.  Guest meals are usually paid for by the employee and reimbursed to that employee by the Accounting Office.  Meals may not be charged to a University Purchasing Card.

In all instances, a Request for Meal Reimbursement form is required.  

Reimbursement/Payment Request

The Request for Meal Reimbursement should include the identification of all persons served and usually should contain individual names.  For larger groups, a roster or participation list may be attached. When requesting reimbursement or payment for non-employee group meals, the request should include the identification of all persons being served, but need not necessarily include specific names. Those served can be identified, for example, as "34 registered conference participants and guests," subject to there being available for audit a roster, registration list or other information which could be used to identify the persons being served.  Reimbursement for refreshments also does not require the listing of individual names, but does require identification of the function and the estimated number of people served. The approving official is responsible for seeing that adequate documentation exists to support payment under this provision

Itemized receipts or invoices must be attached and only actual costs will be reimbursed. The itemized receipt must clearly support the dollar amount, identify the vendor, and indicate payment. Gratuities will be reimbursed at a maximum of 20% of the total cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages.  Reference to the number of persons served is desirable. Individual receipts for each occasion are required. The listing of "restaurant charge" on a hotel folio will not be adequate.

The name of the employee to whom reimbursement should be made must be clearly indicated.  When requested, payment will be made by the University directly to the University's food service contractor.

Approval must be by the department / activity head or designee. If an employee being reimbursed is a department / activity head, that employee should sign as "claimant" and one higher authority level should approve.  Expenditure Account Code 74983 should be used for these charges.

The form should be submitted to the Accounting Office.  Meal reimbursements cannot be made through the Bursar's Office or through any other University petty cash fund.

Other Provisions

Recurring Meals. Meals and food to be provided on a recurring basis or through arrangements not practical under provisions of this procedure may be approved through Procurement Services. Purchase requisitions must be approved by the same official(s) required under other provisions of this procedure.  A copy of the approved Request for Meal Reimbursement should be attached to the purchase requisition.  The original should be retained by the department to be submitted with the invoice to the Accounting Office.

Guest Meals While in Travel Status. If guest meals are purchased while in travel status, the reimbursement of the guest meal (including the traveler's meal) will be made under this policy.  The request for reimbursement of guest meal(s) should be submitted separately on the Request for Meal Reimbursement form, indicating the travel purchase order number.  The Meal Reimbursement form must be submitted with the travel claim.  If more than one University employee in travel status was included in the guest meal party, travel claims for all University employees must be submitted with the guest meal reimbursement request. 

Receptions. In some instance, the University may be required to honor a guest or employee with a reception.  Reasonable costs for these receptions may be reimbursed, if the event is in accordance with the University's policies.  Limited support may be provided for receptions and dinners for retiring or terminating employees. For receptions, University funds may be used not to exceed $3 per anticipated guest. For dinners, only the cost of meals for the employee being honored and his/her personal guests may be paid from University funds.

University Business Meetings/Seminars. Refreshments or meals may be purchased for business related extended meetings, seminars and training sessions.  Purchases should not be self-serving for the sole enjoyment of the department.

The University may deny reimbursements for meal expenses that lack sufficient documentation or a clear business purpose.  Gatherings that are primarily social in nature, such as holiday events, do not qualify for payment or reimbursement as business meals.

Related Forms

Request for Meal Reimbursement Form 

Revision Dates

 UM1311 -- Revised September 23, 2016
UM1311 - Rev: March 13, 2014
UM1311 Rev.1 -- updated July 18, 2006
September 7, 2002 ( UM1311 )

Subject Areas:

AcademicFinanceGeneralHuman ResourcesInformation TechnologyResearchStudent Affairs