Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How Many Ounces in a Pint? Restaurants that Short Pour to Save Money

There are 16 oz in a pint, but according to this Wall Street Journal article some restaurants are serving 14oz beers. This problem seemed to be first noticed Jeff Alworth, a Portland, Ore., beer blogger. Taking an initiative Alworth started the Honest Pint Project. He went around Portland drinking beer and measuring the glasses. He then posted his results on his blog showing where an honest pint could be found.

So what are the economics of 14oz beers? It is possible that people do not want a whole pint as a quote from the article points out "Someone who comes in and wants a beer doesn't want a huge glass," says Tanny Feerer, vice president for purchasing at Damon's International. "Fourteen ounces is enough." As a spokesperson for Hooters points out 20 extra beers are gained per keg with the 14oz pours.

If a pint is honest or not depends on if the beer is advertised as a pint or 14oz beer. Either way, some companies have taken the advice of an article published in a British Medical Journal by Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor that showed customers cannot usually tell the difference and are just as happy with a 14oz beer.

At this point it might be a good idea to follow the British. There if you get a pint in the pub, your glass is certified as a pint and it marked as such. This Wikipedia article on pint glasses is quite informative on the subject.

Economically it could be argued that letting it go as is with dishonest pints might be better if the cost of implementing such a certified pint glass system outweighed the benefit of decreased monitoring cost for people like Alworth and the loss of the consumer enjoyment of those extra 2 oz. But I would rather have my full pint.

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Nora Rocket said...

Seth, I love your blog - and I have a question for you, if I may turn this comment into Ask the Economist.

Car commercials.

What I mean is: cars aren't like soda pop, mascara, cheese, allergy medication, sports drinks, or athletic shoes. They're durable goods with huge price tags, and no one I know buys them with anything that could be called frequency. Yet, anecdotally, I feel like I see at least two car commercials per commercial break on network broadcast television - sometimes more, depending on the programming. And all that ad time must add up. And, unlike a sports drink, a car isn't something the entire viewing audience could go out, find, qualify to purchase, and then buy. So how do car ads work at all? Is it just that I'm a legendary cheapskate with no car currently, who comes from a family that drives 'em until they literally blow up and hasn't bought a non-used new car in, ah, ever? I just don't understand who the car ads target and how that viewing public's expenditure on cars can be consistant and consistantly high enough to make the ads net a profit.

Just thinkin'.

Jennie said...

Not only does Britain have a legally defined pint (Which is almost 20 oz) but they have top-up laws-- once the head on your beer settles, they're legally obligated to top it back up to the top.

Dan said...

Silly statists -- the fact that the British have a law doesn't mean it is enforced.


According to the Campaign for Real Ale, 9 out of 10 pints pulled in Britain are short. When I pulled pints, my landlord (publican) warned me about topping off -- he hated it since his compensation was based in part on cask management, which in reality means he was rewarded for screwing the customer.

Let's also consider the downsides to British regulation of the drinks market. Among others, mixed drinks with more than one alcoholic ingredient are almost impossible to come by because spirits must be sold in 25 or 35 ml increments. So in practice you can't get a White Russian to save your life -- at least not for less than about 8 pounds ($15). And forget about sex on the beach.

I don't know how you could write a regulation on beer sizes that would actually be enforced or even enforceable. Enforcement would take a sheer quantity of resources that means it would fail any benefit-cost analysis. And moreover, think of the special interests and rent-seekers who would undoubtedly capture this regulation. The brewing industry and MADD would be a powerful bootleggers and Baptists coalition. If bars are being deceptive (marketing a 16 oz beer but only giving you 14 oz) we already have laws to deal with that -- it's false advertising and is civilly and in some cases criminally punishable.

Seems like a perfect example of a problem that's best served by voting with one's feet into the bar next door.