In a recent Hopinions poll and podcast discussion, we learned that 83% of beer drinkers expect a half pint to cost exactly half the price of a full pint.
Makes sense, right? You’re getting half the amount of beer, so it should be half the price? That is the argument for this pricing structure, in its simplest form.
This week’s #hopinions folks 👇🏼👇🏼
Should half a pint cost half the price of a pint?
— Beer O’clock Show #Hopinions (@BeerOClockShow) September 15, 2019
Is running a bar that simple though? Does the service industry not also charge for the service it provides? Do businesses not have associated costs in pouring you a beer other than the beer itself?
The other key arguments FOR a half being half price seem to fall under the topics below:-
- You’re penalising those who don’t want to consume a higher volume.
- Overheads are fixed costs as the pub will have to pay for electric, washing dishes and staff regardless.
Our thoughts on this one are pretty simple… the cost of the liquid you’re being poured should be half the price, for a half pint. However, the other associated costs are not going to be exactly half – it is still going to take a staff member a similar length of time to serve your drink and to take your payment, you will still need a glass which will in turn need to be washed, you’ll still sit in the bar for a certain period and will use the associated facilities that the bar provides.
I think it's OK to charge a little bit more than half. You still have someone serving you, your glass will still need cleaned, etc. Assuming it should be exactly half implies that you're only paying for the beer itself and none of the other associated costs. #hopinions
— Craft & Slice 🍺🍕 (@craftandslice) September 15, 2019
Let’s say a pint is £4 – the beer itself accounts for £3.60 of the cost with 40p going towards the other associated expenses involved in serving you that beer. So a half pint? It’s going to be £1.80 + 40p = £2.20.
Okay, there’s a counter argument that says it’ll take slightly less time to serve a half pint, and slightly less electricity, water, washing up liquid etc to wash a half pint glass. So let’s drop the ‘service’ charge to 25p. That’s still £2.05 for a half pint, which is still more than exactly half the cost of a pint.
The argument that staff are being paid to be there already, or that the bar is already paying to wash their glasses, makes little sense. For the sake of illustrating our point, let’s say that one pub only sells pints, and one pub only sells half pints. Now let’s say they both sell the exact same volume of beer in a month. The pub that only sells half pints will have to wash twice as many glasses and serve customers twice as often. It is absurd to suggest that will not incur additional costs.
Let’s go one step further and say there is always a queue at the bar in these fictional pubs. Now the pub serving half pints is going to need to double the number of staff in order to maintain its current standard of service and wait times at the bar, because everyone is now going to the bar twice as often to get the same amount of beer.
These things have to be factored into pricing of drinks. Stepping outside of the beer bubble for a second, there’s a reason why cocktails are more expensive than normal drinks and it’s not the ingredients – it’s the time it takes the bar staff to make them, which is time they could otherwise be using to serve another customer.
The other argument about penalising customers for buying a half pint? No, you’re just not rewarding them.
There are countless examples of things being cheaper when you buy a higher volume or quantity. Two litres of milk costs more than two one litre bottles. A multi-pack of crisps costs significantly less than buying individual packets. A 500ml bottle of Coke costs about £1.50, yet you can get a two litre bottle for less than £2. Even beer in supermarkets is cheaper when you buy a crate than if you were buying the same bottles or cans as individual units in the same store.
For all of the reasons listed above, we’re fine with paying a little more for a half. Logically, there can be no other reasonable conclusion. If the difference between the two is more than 50p, we’d probably feel like we were being ripped off though.
With all of that being said, 83% of people still expect a half pint of beer to cost exactly half the price of a pint. So should bars just charge exactly half? Probably, yeah. The customer is always right – even if their expectation is illogical.
The smart thing for the bar to do is work out how much it costs them to serve a half pint, then simply double the cost for a pint. This means that the customer believes they’re getting a fair deal, while the reality is that the pint-drinker is probably being over-charged somewhat to compensate.
This issue is one that has spawned from our deeply rooted drinking culture and the evolution of beer. Tradition has historically been to drink pints, only pints and many, many pints. Beer and its surrounding culture have changed in recent years – craft beer drinkers want to try as many beers as possible and to support as many small, independent breweries as possible in the process. It is clear from this poll, though, that they do not want to feel like they’re being penalised and over-charged for doing so.
You’ve got to wonder… if we’d traditionally drank beer in half pints and there had been a recent shift towards drinking pints, would we not all now be demanding that buying a full pint should be the cheaper option? Beer, eh… a drink of two halves.