Saturday, 6 July 2013

A pint of two halves

There was recently a somewhat ill-tempered spat on the local CAMRA e-mail group about a particular bar that was charging more for a half than exactly 50% of the price of a pint. Some thought this was a disgraceful practice, while others felt that the licensee was perfectly entitled to recover the greater costs of serving halves. So I thought I would ask what blog readers thought.

I was actually expecting a strong vote for “Never acceptable”, but it seems the majority are fairly relaxed about it so long as pubs don’t blatantly take the piss. For many years standard in Ireland, it certainly seems to be something that is spreading on this side of the Irish Sea. For example, recently I came across a Hydes pub asking £2.70 for a pint of Original Bitter, but £1.40 for a half.

The usual reason given is that the overheads in terms of staff time and glass-washing are the same for a half as for a pint, and thus some kind of premium is justified. However, this stems from a basic fallacy of accounting, that what seems a reasonable method for apportioning costs is also what creates costs in the first place. In general, pubs serve far more pints than halves, and the fact that they do sell a few halves doesn’t in reality lead to any measurable extra cost.

Cost should never be the sole factor in pricing – you also have to bear in mind consistency and what people feel happy to pay. Pubs apply all kinds of different mark-ups to different products, and, while I’m never going to man any barricades about it, charging more for halves seems to me to be something that needlessly antagonises customers for little or no benefit to the pub. Also it’s not hard to imagine the anti-drink lobby getting up in arms over effectively giving people a discount for drinking more.


  1. Some places take the piss, 50p more for a half than half the price of a pint is common in Belfast.

    WEST in Glasgow also springs to mind...hopefully tackle them about it next weekend at beer bloggers conference...if you want to try multiple beers you end up having to drink pints of each...or ask for a small glass of water and decant...

  2. At one point I got the impression that this would be outlawed by the Scottish government's ban on multibuy discounts (about the only good outcome from their anti-drink policies) but sadly it seems not.

  3. Professor Pie-Tin6 July 2013 at 21:03

    On the rare occasion I give the old doll a spin out for a drink here in Ireland ( I'd rather drink with my mates than the missus ) it drives me bonkers that she won't be seen drinking a pint but flops two halves just as fast.
    I point out two halves are more expensive than a pint but she insits she still won't be seen drinking a pint.
    " People might think I'm a lesbian " is her standard reply.

  4. I don't buy into this "greater costs of serving halves" nonsense. It is nothing more than pure profiteering on the part of greedy pub landlords who then wonder why their pubs are empty.

    Why is it standard practice in Ireland for heaven's sake? and why, along with the smoking ban, has this disgraceful practice been allowed to cross the Irish Sea?

    Female members of our local CAMRA branch, most of whom prefer to drink halves, quite rightly feel discriminated against by this money-grabbing practice. I would urge people to vote with their feet and boycott pubs which do this.

  5. This is completely unacceptable in my book. Not being much of a half drinker, I can't say it personally affects me too much, but I just feel it's wrong in principle.

  6. Reasonably relaxed about it, but at the recent Welland Valley Beer Festival the first pub we visited was operating an unnecessary token system which meant two halves cost 50p more than a pint. That was taking the piss and we didn't stick around.

  7. Beer is a loose product, not a pre-packaged one. If you order some cheese cut off the block or pre-cooked meat from the joint, you don't get charged more pro rata if you order 4oz than if you ask for 2lb, even though the smaller quantity takes exactly the same time to cut, and uses a similar amount of wrapping as the larger one. You don't get charged more per gallon of petrol if you buy only one gallon, even though it takes just as long to serve you as someone who has bought a tankful. The same principle should apply to beer.

  8. I dont see a problem, after all, it is up to the landlord.

    Why would any self respecting beer drinker order a half anyway ?

  9. Actually I would say more halves are drunk now than they used to be because of the increase in people wanting to taste a variety of different beers.

  10. I like to taste different beers....

    .. but the thought of ordering a half pint of BEER would never even come close to the merest possibility of crossing what is left of my mind.

  11. Lots of rip offs occur in pubs. From overpriced peanuts to the price of duty free soft drinks. What is interesting is that beer geeks have no problem with these because someone else is being ripped off to support the Great British Pub. When its beer geeks being ripped off, then it's a problem.

  12. I've always thought that when you go into a pub and order a drink you aren't so much buying the liquid as renting the table/seat for a period of time, so I have no problem with pubs charging more for halves.

  13. CL: I don't know whether I'm included in your 'beer geeks' category, but I've often commented that soft drinks are a complete rip off in pubs. It is ludicrous that a pint of lemonade can cost more than a pint of beer, especially when you buy a 2 litre (3.5 pint) bottle for well under a pound in a supermarket. It makes not drinking, such as when you're the driver, very expensive.

  14. If pubs charged less for soft drinks, they'd make even less money because the demand isn't very price-elastic. Maybe they could recover the lost revenue by charging more for beer.

  15. this has always struck as one of those common sense running a business or pub things, that always amazes me how very often pubs get pricing wrong.

    you should IMO never have to charge a visible overhead for a half pint it makes customers generally feel ripped off, and pubs certainly dont consider offering discounts for reusing the same glasses to fill another beer with, so totally agree its a basic fallacy and the excuses dont wash.

    what you should be doing IMO is calculating the price point at which you sell a pint so that you cover all your costs even those of the half pint, and the price of a half will be exactly half the cost of that pint.

    the pub then doesnt lose out money running its dishwasher more, its hiding its overheads in the prices, the same way we dont pay less to drink during the day and more during the night time because the pub needs lighting, or more during the winter to pay for its heating, these are generally costs hidden to us, but which we are all paying for in the price of the pint.

    so if Hydes had charged £2.80 for a pint, and £1.40 for the half instead, would you have considered that unreasonable pricing, the half is the same price, but because its exactly half the cost of the pint, the disparity doesnt stand out anymore, so you dont feel your being ripped off. even though arguably you are paying "more" for the same drink

    and because they sell more pints and make more of those extra 10p's, that covers the costs of the halves, and maybe you find you can drop the cost of the pint back down to £2.70 and halves are £1.35 instead. It all depends on the beer and quantities you are selling which the pubs/landlords should be reviewing constantly.

  16. @Stono - totally agreed. It's simply poor business practice.

  17. And it is infuriating. Infuriating your customers is "simply poor business practice."


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