Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Spiralling Cost of a Meal out at the Local; Landlords 'Jack Up' Food Prices, Says Guide

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Spiralling Cost of a Meal out at the Local; Landlords 'Jack Up' Food Prices, Says Guide

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN PRYNN

SOARING pub food prices are threatening the cherished status of lunch in the local as the ultimate "cheap and cheerful" meal out.

The cost of traditional bar meals - from the humble cheese and pickle sandwich up to Sunday roast with all the trimmings - have risen by an average of 13 per cent since 2001, almost five times the underlying rate of inflation, a survey says today.

Even the basic ploughman's lunch, often little more than a hunk of bread, a tired lettuce leaf and a sweaty chunk of cheese, now costs almost a fiver.

Alisdair Aird, editor of the 2004 Good Pub Guide, which conducted the survey, said: "At a time when other high street prices have been almost at a standstill, price increases on this scale do get noticed, and do hurt customers' pockets."

In one in seven of the 331 pubs surveyed, prices had risen by at least a quarter. Mr Aird said landlords were jacking up pub-grub prices to compensate for the tiny profit margins they make on drink, which tend to be set by large national companies.

The trend is also being pushed by the gentrification of pub food - which has seen the simple, traditional sandwich transformed into sophisticated foreign creations such as a ciabatta or a wrap at two or three times the price.

Mr Aird said that many readers of the guide complained about being "bulldozed into having, and paying for, something far fancier than the simple lunchtime snack they really want". But the rise of the gastro-pub was not to blame as prices of the more ambitious meals tended to remain steady.

The findings of the survey were swiftly rejected by the pub industry, which claimed bar menus had never been more competitively priced. Bob Cartwright of Mitchells & Butler, Britain's second biggest chain with around 1,000 pubs in London alone, said its food prices were down one per cent on last year. …

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