Slug & Lettuce owner to charge more at peak hours

A general view of a Slug and Lettuce bar and restaurant pub in the High Street on February 18, 2023 in Colchester, England. People with backpakcs are seen walking in front of the pub along the street.
The Stonegate Group owns the Slug & Lettuce pub chain

The pub group that owns Slug & Lettuce and Yates bars has said it will charge about 20p more per pint during peak hours due to cost increases.

Stonegate Group, the UK's biggest pub chain, says 800 of its 4,000 pubs will introduce "dynamic pricing" during evenings and weekends.

It said the price rise reflected the higher costs the company was facing, including extra security.

Peak-time pricing is used by other sectors like travel when demand spikes.

Stonegate said customers would be alerted to the price increases through notices in their pubs.

The move prompted an angry response from some customers on social media.

"It's already happening at my local pub - something like £3.40 a pint before 7pm, £4.20 after. It's backfired I think, it's often empty after 7pm," said one.

"If they push on with this there will be no such thing as a busy Stonegate pub," said another.

The company has introduced temporary price increases before. The chain charged up to 50p a pint more when England football matches were shown in their pubs during the last two world cups. Prices returned to normal after the matches.

Ride-sharing companies like Uber also use peak-time pricing, and it is commonly used by the hotel and airline industries.

"Like all retail businesses, we regularly review pricing to manage costs but also to ensure we offer great value for money to our guests," a Stonegate spokesperson said.

"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."

Stonegate said that part of its "dynamic pricing" strategy also included the ability to offer deals during less busy times, including 2-for-1 cocktails, happy hours and discounts on food and drink. Many other sectors do the same to encourage business during quieter times of the week.

'It's very difficult to make any money'

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, chef and pub owner Tom Kerridge said he would not be surprised if the company was dropping prices at certain points, "maybe at lunchtime, or at times in the business where it's a little bit quieter".

"I imagine the prices will be the same on a Saturday night, but it will be cheaper at quieter times."

Mr Kerridge, who has spoken often about the struggles the hospitality sector is facing because of Brexit, Covid, and the rising cost of energy, said the industry was under huge pressure.

"It's very difficult to make any money," he said.

"Beer is an incredibly expensive commodity. The process of brewing has gone up by an incredible amount. It's ridiculous. That end result does have a knock-on effect."

Pubs across the UK have been struggling with increased costs, including energy, leading to record closures across England and Wales.

In May, data from consultants CGA and AlixPartners suggested the number of licensed premises since March 2020 declined 12% in British cities, with central London being hit the hardest.