By definition, the opportunities to take advantage of an offer on something that is consumed at the time of purchase are much more limited than on something that can be taken home and stored for later use. It may tempt the odd person to visit Wetherspoon’s who otherwise wouldn’t have done, or encourage them to have an extra pint, but it’s hardly going to turn the market upside down. And remember that Ruddles Bitter was already priced at £1.49, so you’re only saving 50p per pint. The main benefit to Wetherspoon’s will be gaining publicity.
Low prices alone seldom provide sufficient attraction to visit pubs. You sometimes see urban pubs with signs advertising how cheap their beer is, but by and large they tend to be the less appealing ones. Yes, Wetherspoon’s do offer good value, but they also attract customers due to their long and consistent opening hours, their wide food and drink offer, and their general ambiance that doesn’t make anyone feel unwelcome. In any case, they are competing as much with fast food and casual dining outlets as with other pubs. And, over their full drinks range, they’re not as cheap as cask drinkers might imagine. The discount on cask is greater than on other beers because it’s the product where people make price comparisons.
Another factor is that people generally buy drinks in rounds rather than individually. There’s a general understanding that people don’t take the piss by ordering particularly expensive drinks when it’s someone else’s turn, but the benefit of choosing a cheap beer purely on price is diluted. If you choose Ruddles on your round and Leffe when someone else is paying your companions won’t be impressed. Wetherspoon’s probably attract a higher proportion of solo drinkers than most other pubs, but even so the majority are likely to be buying in rounds. It may be that the rise of app ordering is eroding round-buying, but I doubt whether than is a big factor amongst the Ruddles-buying classes. I am currently running a Twitter poll which so far is showing a strong preference for round-buying:
The custom of round buying is also why various attempts to introduce lower-priced, weaker “value bitters” in pubs have always been a failure. Over the years, I remember various North-West brewers trying this – Boddingtons had Old Shilling and Hydes Billy Westwood’s – and some of them were actually quite pleasant. I remember once drinking six pints of Billy Westwood’s on Sunday lunchtime in the now-demolished Moss Rose/Four Heatons near my home. But none stayed the course, as the round-buying culture, especially in traditional boozers, worked against them. Why choose a cheap product rather than the mainstream one when someone else is paying?
POLL: If you are drinking (not dining) with others, how do you normally pay for drinks?— Pub Curmudgeon 🌸🍻 (@oldmudgie) January 13, 2023