Poll: should pubs charge customers for electricity?

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

De minimums issue: billing customers to charge electronic devices could be 'counterproductive' (Credit: Getty/Adam Gault)
De minimums issue: billing customers to charge electronic devices could be 'counterproductive' (Credit: Getty/Adam Gault)

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Despite pressure surrounding energy costs in the on-trade, allowing customers to charge phones at pubs should be a “value added service” and charging them to do so would be “counterproductive”, according to operators from across the sector.

Owner of the Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Suffolk, Brendan Padfield said allowing customers to charge electronic devices was all part of the hospitality service and that the cost of charging a personal electronic device was a “de minimums issue”.

He continued: “It's a very difficult message to say to a customer, especially in the hospitality sector, that you can't charge the phone because it's going to cost too much.

“For us not to allow customers to charge electronic devices, or to bill customers to do so, would be counterproductive.

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“It's an uninviting message to say to people ‘you can't charge your phone because of the cost’, even though there's a perfectly logical argument with the cost of energy.”

Padfield added many consumers would not accept being asked to pay to charge their devices at a pub, stating the sector is viewed as “immune” to rising costs.

“If you look at what happened with the cost-of living-crisis in the early days, when we were facing food inflation running at 20%, then we had customers coming in saying why have you put your prices up?

“Even though they've been to the supermarket and seen the supermarket put their prices up, there's this lapse of disconnect, and I think in many ways that could apply to energy costs.

Negligible cost

“If [a pub] had a bank of chargers with 20 0r 30 phones, that's a different kettle of fish, but the reality is the requests we get to charge a phone, maybe one or two a week, means the flak you would get for charging would be disproportionate”, he continued.

Padfield also likened the situation to taking card details to secure bookings, adding operators looking to start putting a price tag on charging devices could face some backlash.

He said: “Taking card details for reservations is now pretty much the norm and it's had a dramatic impact in reducing the amount of no shows and late cancellations for us.

“We were the first in Suffolk to charge to take card details and the flak we got for doing that was enormous.

“The danger for any operator imposing a [cost for charging devices] and being at the vanguard of this, is that they are going to get the flak we account encountered in analogous circumstances.”

Owner of the Dog at Wingham in Canterbury, Marc Bridgen, added while requests to charge devices are infrequent at the site, many customers use Wi-Fi on their phones, tablets or laptops at pubs, calling it a “value added service”.

He added: “The odd guest will ask, there's a few regulars that put their phone on charge whilst they're having a few pints. If people ask, they're very welcome to it.

“The cost to charge a phone or tablet or laptop is negligible.

“[It’s important to] keep the customer happy. If they're charging [devices], they might stay longer and have another drink.”

Insane pressure 

In addition, Bridgen explained the Dog, which also offers accommodation, even allows customers, mostly those staying overnight, to charge electric vehicles so long as they have an attachment for a domestic plug.

“We've looked at potentially putting in a proper charging solution, but we get the odd customer that wants to charge their vehicle, especially when staying overnight”, he continued.

Though Bridgen added operators had “bigger fish to fry” in current economic headwinds.

He said: “We're under such insane pressure.

“Energy and utilities are not killing us, but they are taking us to the edge.

“In the scheme of it, a few guests charging a few things isn't the straw to break the camel's back, it’s the Government incompetence around our national energy policies that is the problem.”

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