Pub group with venues in Scotland to charge customers more to drink during busy 'peak' periods

​It sounds like every patron’s worst nightmare – a seeming ‘unhappy hour’ where customers are charged more to drink during busy periods

But one of the UK’s largest pubs’ groups is being openly upfront about the move designed to cover rising costs amid a rampant cost-of-living crisis, admitting it is set to charge customers around 20p more for a pint of beer at some of its locations during peak periods under a "dynamic pricing" system.

Stonegate Group, which owns chains including Slug & Lettuce and Yates, said it is raising prices at 800 of its venues during peak times, such as evenings and weekends.

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It has previously done so during one-off events, such as World Cups, but has now decided to introduce price variance on a more regular basis.

The 'dynamic pricing' plan will be introduced at Slug & Lettuce bars across the UK. Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty ImagesThe 'dynamic pricing' plan will be introduced at Slug & Lettuce bars across the UK. Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
The 'dynamic pricing' plan will be introduced at Slug & Lettuce bars across the UK. Picture: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

There are Slug & Lettuce venues situated in Scotland, including prominent sites in central Edinburgh on George Street and at the Omni Centre. However, the exact sites to adopt the “dynamic pricing” system has not been confirmed.

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, live events and taxi-hailing apps, where airlines charge more for tickets during the school holidays.

A YouGov poll published in December last year showed 71 per cent of Britons were against dynamic ticket pricing.

A spokeswoman for Stonegate, which has 4,500 venues, said: "Stonegate Group, like all retail businesses, regularly review 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.

"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."

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However, Tom Stainer, chief executive of consumer group Campaign for Real Ale, labelled the move “troubling”.

“We know pubs and brewers are having a difficult time at the moment, but we don’t think an extra charge penalising customers that want to support the industry is the right solution,” he said.

“Our fear is that it could convince people to stay away.”

The chief executive of another of Britain's big pub chains, who asked not to be named, told The Guardian 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, but added the transparency may have backfired amid dismay on social media and negative publicity.



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