Policy: 202-Hosted Meals and Events

Statement of Policy:

University funds may be used to provide meals, break items or non-alcoholic beverages at University sponsored events or business functions that are not purely social in nature.  Expenses must be actual, reasonable and necessary to conduct business, must be approved by a Director or Department Head (or above) and may not exceed the maximum allowed.  Any expenses related to the purchase of alcohol will not be paid by the University unless covered by a registration fee. Examples of business functions that fall under this policy include conferences, seminars, retreats, workshops, training sessions, academic colloquiums, receptions, orientations, business meetings, interviews, recruiting, official functions, etc.

Note: An individual traveler’s personal meal & incidental expense (M&IE) per diem allowance cannot be used to pay for items related to University Sponsored Events or any other related business entertainment activity that includes meals, food or beverages whether the expense is incurred in travel status or at the headquarter location.  See Policy 201.I – Meals & Incidental Expenses (M&IE).

Note: Sponsored projects (e.g., fund 144 or 133) are subject to the terms and conditions of the specific award, as well as applicable program guidelines, which may restrict use of funds for certain meeting or conference expenses. See RSP guidance on meetings/conferences. Please contact the RSP accountant for your award with any questions.


Maximum rates are based on actual expenses incurred and include tax and tips or required gratuities up to 20%.  See below for specific rates.

Definitions and Allowable Expenses

Refreshment Breaks: Refreshment break expenses must be limited to one break each morning and afternoon. The break may consist of non-alcoholic beverages (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks) and a small food item.  Events that include a continental breakfast must not include additional food items at the morning break.  Refreshment break expenses are allowable only in association with a business event that meets one of the following criteria:

  • Facilities are not available within the building or immediate area of the meeting where attendees could obtain and consume normal break items within a typical break period (10 to 20 minutes).
  • Having the attendees leave the meeting room would have an adverse effect on the continuity of the meeting, meaning it is expected that break items be consumed while the business meeting or program continues.
  • The majority of the attendees are not UW/State employees. For purposes of applying this provision, board members are not considered employees.

Meals:  Meal expenses are allowable only in association with a business event that meets one of the following criteria:

  • A mealtime speaker is scheduled.
  • Business is conducted during the meal.
  • Facilities are not available near the meeting location for attendees to eat at their own cost.

Receptions:  A reception is defined as a gathering of individuals associated with a UW­ sponsored event that provides the opportunity for interaction in a setting that is not purely social in nature. Unlike a business meeting, a reception may not have a specific agenda or time frame. Like a business meeting, the purpose must be related to or promote the mission of the hosting department.  Reasonable food and beverage costs, reception room cost, service charges and gratuity may be paid.  Refreshments cannot include alcoholic beverages.  Even though it may not be possible to determine in advance how many will actually attend, a reasonable effort should be made to minimize expenses resulting from overestimated attendance. The hosting department should be prepared to justify the cost of the event to the news media and to political and private interests.  Expenses are not allowable for receptions that are solely for social or entertainment purposes, unless otherwise stated in one of the following UWSA policies:

Events Attended Primarily by UW Employees

In addition to the requirements above, events attended primarily by UW employees (from any UW institution) are subject to the following:

  • Expenses for meetings held in non-UW facilities are not payable/reimbursable if additional expenses are incurred by the University which would not have been incurred if the meetings had been held in a UW facility. The only exception is when an adequate UW facility is not available. Justification for not using a UW facility where additional costs for transportation and meeting room expenses are incurred requires approval from the University’s Controller.  Additional costs for lodging are not payable/reimbursable.
  • All registration fees must be paid to the University and deposited in the State Treasury.  Registration fees must not include items which are not allowable under UW regulations.
  • The event brochure or registration form must be included with the payment/reimbursement request and should include the itemized costs included in the fee (e.g. meals, refreshment breaks), regardless of the dollar amount.

Events Attended Primarily by the General Public

In addition to the requirements above, events attended primarily by the general public are subject to the following:

  • Events should be planned and located in such a way that convenience and accessibility for the participants is maximized and costs to them and the UW are minimized. Utilization of campus facilities is encouraged. The services of a UW meeting planning department should also be considered.
  • The brochure or registration form should indicate the costs (e.g. meals, beverages, refreshment breaks) included in the fee. Wine/beer to be served with a meal included at the conference are the only alcoholic beverages which may be included in the conference fee. Registration fees must be charged for meals, beverages, lodging and other non-program¬ related costs. An accounting of the event registration fees collected and expense incurred must be completed and made available upon request.
  • All registration fees must be paid to the University and deposited in the State Treasury.

Documentation Requirements

Expenses for hosted meals and events must be supported by the following:


Travelers and departmental staff should contact their respective Divisional Business Office for policy or procedural questions.

Divisional Business Offices may contact uwtravel@bussvc.wisc.edu with questions.