Overall, business remains strong as Europeans account for a bigger share of business, he says. Yet, Bastianich says, he's seeing a shift in customer purchases. Some are starting to frown on items "that are very showy or exclusively priced" and instead are seeking items that represent better value: a $300 bottle of Barolo vs. a $1,000 California cult cabernet, he says.
Even business diners at moderately priced restaurants are watching their tabs. David Robinson, a sales executive from Lenoir City, Tenn., no longer reaches for the check first when dining with work colleagues, even though they would get reimbursed by the same company, so the amount won't count against his budget.
"In past years, I'd grab for it first just to get out of there. Now, I'll wait," Robinson says.
At some companies, travelers who fail to follow the new policies are risking their reimbursement. Move.com, an online real estate media company with 1,700 employees, adopted a "very heavy policy" in the last year to curb costs, says Cyndy Hayes, the company's travel manager. If employees break the rules, they are contacted by a supervisor — and multiple offenders risk being denied reimbursement, she says.
"We're a publicly traded company. We have to show shareholder value," Hayes says.
Consultant Chris Pearson of Westfield, Ind., says he's seen "major crackdowns" in other ways. Since fall, his firm requires him to file expenses within 30 days or risk not getting reimbursed, he says.
"Unless you want to fund your own travel, you toe the line," he says.