On an expense account? Try a Big Mac!

A man stands inside a McDonald's fast food restaurant on August 23, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

When you think of someone dining out on an expense account, you probably think of something like Drago Centro in downtown Los Angeles. Men and women in business suits, seated at white table cloths, in what looks like a giant greenhouse. The soothing sound of water flows from a fountain while the waiter talks about the chef’s preparation of game birds. Today it’s pheasant, roasted shredded and served with demiglaze and sauted morels.

But it turns out that most people who eat on the boss’ dime aren’t having pheasant or pan seared Mediterranean Sea bass with cherry tomato cripsy polenta. They are eating Big Macs.

“It’s always interesting to me to see how much utilization there is of convenience stores and fast food for business travelers,” says Bob Neveu, the president of Certify.

Certify processes over $4 billion in expense account transactions a year. Every quarter it puts out a detailed report and the most recent one lists McDonald's as the second most expensed restaurant. Number one was Starbucks. Number three Subway, followed by Panera Bread, and rounding out the top five was HMS Host.

 

 

“A lot of people will know HMS,” says Neveu, “they run a lot of the restaurants in a lot for the major airports.”

The fact that airport restaurants are in the top five could help to explain the results of this survey. People with business accounts are often on the go. As much as they would love to discuss quarterly sales projections over a vintage bottle of Cote De Nuits, there’s just no time.

Or they simply need Wi-Fi.

“That makes a big, big difference. If you have two restaurants and one you know has a Wi-Fi network that works and one doesn’t,” Neveu says there’s a good chance you will forgo the crème brûlée for a Starbucks cake pop if it means you can stream video. A work video, of course. Not the latest episode of "Game of Thrones."

Certify also keeps track of the ratings patrons give to each restaurant. At the top of the business traveler's list? Sandwich shop Jimmy John's, whose website notes its "freaky fast delivery," another crucial perk for the road-warrior clan.

Top 10 Rated Restaurants

1. Jimmy John's (Average rating: 4.4)
2. Chipotle (4.4)
3. Chick-Fil-A (4.3)
4. Panera Bread (4.2)
5. Dunkin’ Donuts (4.2)
6. Ruby Tuesday (4.2)
7. Buffalo Wild Wings (4.1)
8. Cracker Barrel (4.0)
9. Starbucks (3.9)
10. Outback Steakhouse (3.8)

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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