Standard for Meals and Entertainment

Purpose

The purpose of this standard is to provide guidance on the requirements for the use of University funds to pay for meals or entertainment, all of which must have a valid University business purpose.   

Scope

This standard applies to all situations where University funds are used.

Contacts

Direct any general questions about this standard to your department’s business officer or fund administrator. If you have specific questions, please refer to the contacts for fund use guidance listed in Appendix 1 of the University’s Financial Management Guidelines.

Standard

  1. Business Meals:  A business meal is defined as a meal that has substantive and bona fide business purpose deemed essential to the University’s mission. Business meals generally fall into the following categories:
    1. Meals while an individual is in travel status:  Meals paid for by a traveler using their personal funds while in travel status are generally reimbursable at State subsistence rates. Refer to Section IV.3.4, “Subsistence - Meals” of the University’s Travel Manual for specific guidance.
      1. All types of operating funds may be used for meals while in travel status (unless specifically restricted). Discretionary funds may be used for the excess costs over the state subsistence amount, and may also be used if the event has valid University business purpose but does not meet all of the North Carolina Budget Manual requirements. Refer to Section IV.3.4 of the University Travel Manual for specific guidance on documentation requirements and the Allowable Fund Usage Table for additional guidance.  
    1. Recruitment meals and other non-travel related meal expenses:  Transportation and subsistence expenses incurred on behalf of an interview candidate are generally reimbursable. Refer to Section IV.3.8, “Job Candidate and Non-travel Meal Expenses” of the University’s Travel Manual for specific guidance.
      1. Recruitment meals must include the participation of the candidate being interviewed and may include more than one University employee. Guests of the candidate and the employee may attend for a valid University business purpose (e.g., attendance improves the chances for a successful recruitment outcome).  The General Fund, Institutional Trust Funds, or Special Funds may be used to pay for the candidate; however, only Discretionary funds may be used to pay for the candidate’s guest, the employee and the employee’s guest. The General Fund, Institutional Trust Funds, or Special Funds may only be used to pay for the employee’s meal if the employee is in travel status per the North Carolina Budget Manual[1]; excess costs over the state subsistence amount may be paid from Discretionary funds.
      2. Discretionary funds are the only types of funds that may be used for cultivation of donors and potential donors and development of community and institutional relationships, which may include business meals, entertainment, and amenities. Examples of non-travel related business meals include solicitation or cultivation of a donor, recruitment of faculty/staff, purchases of tables at community-sponsored events, or hosting of receptions and booths where participation serves to enhance the University’s relationship with the community.
      3. The General Fund, Institutional Trust Funds, or Special Funds may not be used for meals in conjunction with an employee’s[2] normal day-to-day business activities, for meals attended only by University employees, or for employees’ meals for required attendance at student meetings or training. Discretionary funds may be used for such meals if the event has a valid University business purpose but does not meet all of the North Carolina Budget Manual requirements.  
  2. Entertainment:  Discretionary funds are the only types of funds that may be used for entertainment. Entertainment includes amusement or social activities and items relating thereto, such as meals, lodging, rentals, transportation, and gratuities. The General Fund, Institutional Trust Funds, or Special Funds may not be expended for this purpose, except Student Fee Funds, which may be used for student-oriented entertainment (refer to Standard on Student-Oriented Activities for additional guidance).
  3. Alcohol:  Discretionary funds are the only types of funds that may be used to purchase alcohol. See University Policy 706, Alcoholic Beverages, for required prior approvals and other requirements before purchasing alcohol. The only exception to the prior approval requirement is for business meals.

Related Resources

Revision History
  • Initially approved May 1, 2017
  • Updated May 12, 2017
  • Revised July 10, 2017

[1] Refer to OSBM Budget Manual, Section 5.1.11, “Reimbursement for Meals,” Section 5.1.12, “Meals during Overnight Travel”; and Section 5.1.13, “Meals during Daily Travel.”

[2] Refer to UNC Policy 300.3.3[G] for a description of the circumstances in which a student-employee may be considered subject to the State Human Resources Act (SHRA), and consequently, subject to the same fund use requirements as a “regular career employee.”