Hospitality FAQs

Frequently asked questions regarding hospitality guidelines and expenses.

This guideline applies to all hospitality expenses incurred by the University, the Research Foundation, the 49er Foundation and all other auxiliaries including the Forty-niner Shops and the Associated Students Inc. The Auxiliaries and departments may choose implement more restrictive guidelines.

Generally, if there is no guest-host relationship and/or the event is not hosted by the University or one of its representatives.

Third Party Events such as award banquets, recognition dinners, community outreach and other special events not hosted by a university entity where employee attendance is considered appropriate as support to or from the community are not considered hospitality expenses for purposes of this policy and may be processed as regular expenses.

Supply related items such as snack foods for the childcare center, food for farm or lab animals, items used in research. Office beverages/water for guests of the University.

The provision of refreshments or meals to students as part of a grant may be considered participant support. Please see ORSP for guidance.

Hospitality Rates

Table of Maximum Hospitality Rates
Meal Type Maximum per person (effective Jan. 11, 2022)
Breakfast $45.00
Lunch $60.00
Dinner $110.00
Light Refreshments* $30.00
Hors d'oeuveres** $45.00

*Light Refreshments - Light snack, cookies and punch/coffee/tea.

**Hors d'oeuvres - Hot or cold appetizers in lieu of dinner meal service.

Maximum amounts are for food, beverages, and sales tax only  

Approval of other charges such as labor, including servers and bar tenders, delivery, gratuity, and COVID fees are at the discretion of the Appropriate Administrator

When a hospitality expense exceeds the per-person maximum provided in the chart above, the hospitality is considered exceptional. Exceptions require a written justification for the overage and the approval per the Delegation of Signature Authority guideline. 

Note: The fact that actual costs exceed the authorized rates is not, in itself, adequate justification for an exception request for overages. The justification must include why adherence to policy was unavoidable and necessary to achieve a University business purpose.

This is a two step process.

  1. Using the gross, all inclusive, cost divided by the number of persons in attendance. If this test results in an amount less than the maximum rates as described in appendix A, you are done. The event is compliant to the guideline.
  2. If the above per person amount is above the maximum, the costs pertaining to the actual food, beverages and their applicable sales tax are to be isolated and then divided by the number of persons in attendance.

When food is being ordered, estimate the number of attendees when choosing the appropriate menu items. Check your work and don’t forget the sales tax before you approve the order!

Approvals for hospitality related expenses follow the campus delegation of Signature Authority Guideline.

In order to ensure that the approval of hospitality is entirely independent, individuals with delegated approval authority shall neither approve their own expenses nor those expenses of a person to whom they directly report. The approving authority is the next highest level.

Two things are required of a receipt to substantiate a hospitality expense: (1) demonstration of cost – what was purchased and (2) proof of payment.

An itemized receipt or invoice should include details of the food, beverage, tax, service charges if any and gratuity.

A credit card receipt alone is not sufficient. If an original receipt is unavailable, complete a lost receipt form.

A guest list is required including participant names, their titles, and affiliation to the University. For a large function with 100 or more participants, it may not be feasible to provide a guest list so a copy of the flyer, invitation or other announcement may be provided in lieu of a guest list. Examples of large events are guest lecture receptions, parent or student orientation weekends, graduation receptions, department open houses, etc.

Hospitality expenses of a spouse or significant other of the guest or the official host may be reimbursed as an exception to policy provided the attendance of that person serves a bona fide University business purpose. Participation in official University functions that require the attendance of a spouse or domestic partner may be considered a bona fide business purpose.

Alcoholic beverages may not be charged to a State fund.

Alcoholic beverages may be charged to other funding sources provided it can be demonstrated that such an expense serves a University business purpose and there are no restrictions on the other funding sources that would disallow the expense.

The cost of a working lunch, either on or off campus, may be paid for or reimbursed by the University if it is included as part of a scheduled meeting that takes place over an extended period of time or could not be held during normal business hours.

Reimbursement or payment will not be allowed when two or more persons from the same work location choose to go to lunch together to continue their business as an incidental part of the meal or when the meeting could have been held during normal business hours.

Refer to appendix B in the Hospitality Guideline. Contact the Controllers office with any more specific questions.

Hospitality is considered allowable when there is a guest-host relationship, the purpose is official business hospitality, and the nature and cost of the event is within the limits of the hospitality guidelines.

Examples of allowable situations using CSU Operating funds are: hospitality to official guests; meetings of a learned society or organization; meetings of an administrative nature; student oriented meetings; prospective university donors and donor cultivation; receptions held in connection with conferences, fundraising events, employee recognition, length of service awards, retirements; and fee supported functions such as commencement receptions.

Reimbursement or payment of an expense that will be considered taxable income to an employee and that are not in compliance with IRS regulations. Examples are:

  • Payment or reimbursement of expenses that are not allowed by University policy
  • Expenses that are lavish or extravagant under the circumstances
  • The entertainment (hospitality) activity is not directly related to the employee's job
  • The official host or another University employee is not present when the activity takes place
  • The expense is not substantiated with appropriate supporting documentation,
  • Business meals with faculty, staff, or other colleagues that are frequent (eg. that occur on a regular or routine basis) and are reciprocal

At CSULB, "hospitality" is the provision of meals (eg. catered, restaurant, grocery purchase) or light refreshments (eg. beverages, hours d’oeuvres, pastries, cookies, etc.) for a bona fide CSULB business purpose. Hospitality usually involves a guest-host relationship in which a designated host invites an official guest or guests to attend an event. There should be no personal benefit to the person acting as host or to other employees.

A CSULB employee representing the University or Foundation who hosts, chairs or sponsors a meeting, conference, reception or event. The official host is not required to be present at the function.

The official host may not be a department – it must be an individual.

A person invited by an official host to attend a University meeting, conference, reception or event. Official Guests may include but are not limited to recruitment candidates, donors, visitors from other colleges and universities, members of the community and employees from another work location.

A business expense is one that has an appropriate business purpose and where a clear University-related objective is demonstrated instead of a personal or social one.

State funds may be used to pay for or reimburse the cost of light refreshments or meals.

Faculty/staff picnics, end of year gatherings, retirements serve the business purpose of team building.

The approving authority should evaluate these events in terms of cost, benefit, availability of funds, and alternatives that would be equally effective in accomplishing desired business objectives.

A “working lunch” is when the meal is an integral part of an administrative meeting, not a matter of personal convenience. Such a lunch may be held on or off campus and should take place over an extended period of time. The agenda for the meeting should indicate no break for lunch and work will continue during the meal.

Hospitality is considered exceptional when expenses exceed the per-person maximum for the event; expenses for a spouse or significant other are included and a business purpose is demonstrated; the event is not hosted by the University or Foundation; there is missing appropriate documentation; and any other type of hospitality expense that is not specifically included in the hospitality policy.

Approval for exceptions to the hospitality policy has been delegated to Level 2 Administrators, the Vice Presidents and the Director of Athletics. This authority may not be delegated any further.