A recent survey by Mintel has shown that many people resent paying high prices for soft drinks in pubs:
Three in five adults said they resented paying so much for soft drinks in pubs when they know they can get it much cheaper in shops. Over-45s were particularly critical on this issue – and the report says the “grey pound” will become increasingly important for pubs.But do people reasonably expect to buy alcoholic drinks in pubs for the same price as in Tesco? Or meals? So why should it be any different for soft drinks? The naïve notion that everything has a “fair” price based on its purchase cost, and that pricing should take no account of customers’ willingness to pay, remains very prevalent in society.
In reality, soft drinks in pubs are usually something of a distress purchase, and the demand is not highly sensitive to price. And it must be extremely unusual for anyone to make a decision as to which pub to visit based on its range of soft drinks.
But there is a point that pubs, especially those that make a point of a high-quality food and beer offering, should make more effort to stock something distinctive on the soft drink front rather than just relying on the default well-known brands. This is certainly something Woolpack Dave has done. “Crisps, chocolate and coffee; lager, fizzy drinks and fruit juices all have to be quality products,” he says.
It is also often suggested that high soft drink prices act as an encouragement to drink-driving. This is the kind of pious notion which is initially credible, but when you examine it more closely is revealed as a complete canard. I would be amazed if there has ever been a single case where someone has been convicted after deciding to stay on beer because he reckoned the lemonade was too dear. In real life, nobody’s decision as to how much alcohol to drink before driving is going to be swayed by a a few pence one way or the other on the price of orange juice, and I suspect even if pubs offered some soft drinks for free it would make no difference to the amount of drink-drive offending.