There’s no getting away from the fact that times are tough and pubs are having to flex and adapt their offer in a bid to make ends meet.
And on paper, the idea of surge, or dynamic pricing, probably sounds quite appealing - essentially, you increase prices during busy periods - in Stonegate’s case, they claim it’s to cover the costs of busier trading - extra staff, security, energy etc.
And why not? Dynamic pricing is hardly something new, it’s a system that’s been used across a range of sectors for quite some time now, from airlines and hotels, to Uber and holiday companies like Centre Parcs.
However, here’s the rub - generally speaking, it’s not a concept that’s gone down particularly well on the consumer front. Families are regularly complaining that the price of booking a week’s break in a holiday resort has more than quadrupled during school holiday times than during term times.
And I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone express any delight about having to pay more for an Uber because it’s suddenly started chucking it down.
Ultimately, for the industries cited as leading the way in dynamic pricing, it’s generally seen as a way to rip off consumers, or profiteer from people who are unable to take holidays outside of school breaks.
So from a PR point of view, I would suggest while the concept of dynamic pricing sounds good at top level, those having to face the consumers at the sharp end might not think it’s such a great idea.
That said, despite the media reports, this is a concept that is only being applied across a small number of pubs within Stonegate’s huge estate, and consumers will be welcome to vote with their feet.
However, its perhaps a negative story the sector could do without right now, at a time when consumer purses are being squeezed and the prices of pints in pubs is under intense scrutiny.
Of course Stonegate has to find ways to make their business work and they should perhaps argue that increasing prices for short periods is better than increasing prices across the board, and perhaps they would be right.
But that message would appear to be lost among the screaming headlines and social media histrionics that followed the decision.
Time will tell whether its the right decision or not.