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.