Stonegate CEO David McDowall believes it “will be a wee while” before his pubs charge £10 a pint, though acknowledged prices will likely reach this threshold within the next five years.

“The cost burden of running a pub, whether it be labour, business rates or cost of goods, all of that good stuff is more significant than it’s ever been and it’s inevitable that you see that, to a point, in the price,” he said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “I think that also plays into the point that people know they are paying a little bit more for a pint and they expect a certain level of experience.”

Stonegate, which operates more than 4,400 pubs nationwide, made headlines for its shift to charging more during busy trading times, part of a so-called surge pricing policy, in some high footfall locations.

McDowall was “surprised it was an issue”, but said the focus on consumer price point “speaks to how important it is for people”.

The former BrewDog director is “a person who just loves running pubs. I do enjoy speaking to people about pubs. I lean into that and I enjoy that. I think it’s probably when people stop talking about us that we have to start worrying.”

A key focus for him to focus on the shift towards people generally drinking less.

“It’s really important to us to continue to cater for that trend towards moderation and prove to people that you can have a non-alcoholic beer or a Coke Zero and still be part of a great pub experience. And I think that’s really exciting.

“People are getting to our high street pubs earlier, as well. Even at the weekends, people are arriving earlier. If you were to look at Slug & Lettuce, for example, our busiest trading hours are mid-Saturday afternoon to early Saturday evening, whereas a few years ago that would have kicked-off later on.

“We are really socialising differently. I think there’s a bit of a trend towards going in the afternoon, going for lunch and finishing a bit earlier. If you’ve been out earlier, you might finish a bit earlier as well and it’s more sensible.”

Addressing concern over the group’s £2.2bn debt pile, he said Stonegate is seeking to secure a new financing deal in time for Christmas this year.