Pub operators have been warned that they will not attract the new customers they so desperately crave if their food prices continue to rise, after research found the average cost of a pub lunch for two had rocketed to £40.
The Good Pub Guide 2008, published today, accuses many pubs of being greedy and over-charging for food.
A survey of more than 1,000 menus found the average cost of a two-course meal was £16.75 and when added to the cost of an average glass of wine the price per head was £20. The average main course cost £10.50.
Good Pub Guide co-editor Fiona Stapley said she could understand that overheads were rising, but warned pubs not to pass these costs on to customers.
"Most of the pubs are owned by large operators like Punch Taverns or Enterprise Inns which are charging enormous rents while most gastro-pubs have well trained chefs demanding high salaries," she said. "But we do not look at the way the pubs are running, we look at what the customer is paying. Over the past 18 months our readers have really started to complain."
Stapley said it was possible for pubs to deliver good quality food at low prices with one in 12 receiving "bargain award" status for serving main courses at an average price of £6.25.
"Pubs that rely on food a lot more now that the smoking ban is in place are going to have to start thinking about curbing their prices," she said.
By Christopher Walton