A restaurant in Harrogate has introduced dynamic pricing in a bid to attract business away from chain operators.
Paul Rawlinson, owner of Nordic fine-dining restaurant Norse, introduced the model this week. Customers will initially receive a 25% discount on Tuesdays, with the discount rate decreasing by 5% each day until Friday, when it will be 10%. Saturday prices will remain standard.
While common among hotels and airlines, charging different prices at different times is not yet mainstream for food and drink.
Rawlinson said it was too early to say whether the system would encourage more business, but that early feedback had been overwhelmingly positive.
Posts on the Harrogate Advertiser's Facebook page had been about 80:20 in favour of the move, he said, which essentially offers a discount every day bar Saturday.
Some commentators expressed concern that the move could lead to being told when they can afford to dine. Rawlinson conceded he could not please all of the people all of the time, but told The Caterer "independents have to move with the times and compete and this is a very simple way of doing that".
Should it prove a success, he says Norse will look at more sophisticated systems that allow more frequent price changes. "If two weeks out we are low on bookings, we could increase the discount. If we know we have 20 advance bookings we could look at discounting on a table by table basis."
While restaurants in the US use dynamic pricing, it remains relatively rare in the UK. However, the concept is well known from other travel and leisure industries, and Rawlinson thinks it will catch on within dining. He aims to create further partnerships with other independents in Harrogate so that they attract a greater share of business at times when they might otherwise lose out.
A wine tasting and set dinner partnership with an adjacent champagne bar, for example, has seen "solid" Thursday bookings. Rawlinson said other local independents are working together for mutual gain and to help counter the march of chain operators.
He said that independents were conscious of the need to join forces.
"There is a very strong independent scene in Harrogate and they are getting together," said Rawlinson.
"They are much more flexible and can collaborate to do interesting things. They can build a scene in town, which will bring people in.
That cannot be achieved by chains. The press has picked up on that and it is very much on people's minds. Hopefully they will embrace it."
Rawlinson said he would report back on whether the dynamic pricing experiment had worked by the end of May.
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