A pint of beer during the busiest periods will cost drinkers 20p more under a “dynamic pricing” system introduced by Britain’s largest pub group.
Stonegate Group, which owns chains including the Slug & Lettuce and Yates’s, said it was raising prices at 800 of its venues during peak times, such as weekends, to help cover soaring costs.
It has previously done so during one-off events, such as World Cups, but has now taken the decision to introduce price variance on a more regular basis.
Patrons have been informed of the change with a “polite notice” in Stonegate pubs, informing them of the need to raise prices to cover extra staffing costs, more bouncers at the door, extra cleaning, washing glasses and “complying with licensing requirements”.
Dynamic pricing, often known as surge pricing, is a common feature of other industries, such as aviation, where airlines charge more for tickets during the school holidays.
The ride-hailing app Uber uses the feature when demand is high, with prices rising automatically when more people are trying to get a car.
Dynamic pricing is also a common practice big major gig and sports ticket companies in the US, although it is more rare in the UK.
It has proved controversial at times, with some Bruce Springsteen fans reacting with dismay when The Boss applied dynamic pricing to some tickets on his latest tour.
A spokesperson for Stonegate, which has 4,500 venues, said the company “regularly reviews pricing to manage costs but also to ensure we offer great value for money to our guests”.
“Across the managed business our dynamic pricing encompasses the ability to offer guests a range of promotions including happy hours, two-for-one cocktails, and discounts on food and drink products at different times on different days throughout the week,” he told the Telegraph, which first reported the strategy.
“This flexibility may mean that on occasions pricing may marginally increase in selective pubs and bars due to the increased cost demands on the business with additional staffing or licensing requirements such as additional door team members.”
The chief executive of another of Britain’s big pub chains, who asked not to be named, said the practice was not unusual and had been “going on for decades”, in the largest venues, during events and busy periods.
“They’re not the only ones doing it,” he said.
“To be honest, good for them that they’re telling people,” he said, adding that the transparency may have backfired amid dismay on social media and negative publicity.