Unhappy hour? Stonegate's decision to launch dynamic pricing sparks debate

12 September 2023 by
Unhappy hour? Stonegate's decision to launch dynamic pricing sparks debate

Reports that the pub group behind the Slug & Lettuce and Be at One brands is raising prices at some of its bars during busy periods has sparked debate on social media.

Stonegate Pub Company, which is the UK's biggest pub chain, has introduced dynamic pricing at around a fifth of its sites.

The group did not disclose how prices might vary, but The Telegraph reported a manager at a London pub said a pint of beer was 20p more expensive on weekends.

Dynamic pricing is used to raise prices during periods of high demand on transport apps such as Uber as well as in the airline and hotel industry.

Stonegate said the strategy was used to cover extra costs such as bar staff or bouncers during busy times. It is used across its managed division, which comprises about 800 bars, country inns and late-night venues under brands including Popworld and Walkabout.

A spokesperson for Stonegate 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, 2 for 1 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."

The move has sparked debate on X, formerly known as Twitter, with one customer writing that the price change was "utterly disingenuous" to customers.

Roger Protz, former editor of the Good Beer Guide, likened the policy to an "unhappy hour".

But Alex Reilley, chairman and co-founder of restaurant and bar group Loungers, tweeted that several other businesses already used dynamic pricing.

He wrote: "A number of city centre brands do this already (and have done for some time) – at least Stonegate have been honest about telling their customers. Maybe hotels and airlines should charge a flat fee and maybe Greggs and Costa should charge the same in service stations as they do on the [high street]."

Reilley added: "In this case Stonegate are being criticised for being transparent – tons of businesses in a number of sectors operate dynamic pricing and don't tell their customers."

Stonegate is owned by private equity firm TDR Capital and became the largest pub company in the UK when it acquired rival chain Ei Group in 2020.

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