Costco Food Courts Announce New Entry Policy, Not All Diners Are Happy

Costco stores around the U.S. have been putting up signs announcing a new entry policy for their famous store food courts – and not all diners will be happy about the change.

$1.50 Hot Dog Combo No More?

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Is it time to bite the bullet and finally become a Costco member? It might just be, especially if you’re a fan of the Costco food court and its $1.50 hot dog combos.

Members Only

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The retail giant is cracking down on foodcourt policy, enforcing a strict requirement for all diners to have a membership with the retailer in order to purchase food and drink and use the foodcourt seating.

News Spreads Via Reddit

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Costco foodcourt fans raised alarms when an image began to spread on Reddit’s social media platform, which showed a Costco company sign in Orlando, Florida.

Sign of the Times

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The sign reads: “Effective April 8, 2024, an active Costco membership card will be required to purchase items from our food court. You can join today. Please see our membership counter for details.”

Bad News for Hot Dog Fans

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The announcement is bad news for millions of people who enjoy Costco’s affordable and very popular foodcourt fair, such as their hotdogs and pizza slices, without opting into a Costco membership.

The Costco Membership

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It’s a predictable move for Costco, which requires customers to buy a membership, starting at an annual rate of $60, before they can shop at the retail store.

Years of Food Court Sneaking

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Despite that, for years external customers have been sneaking into Costco foodcourts to dine without being asked for membership, which has caused a stir with paying members.

Former CFO Responds

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Former Costco CFO Richard Galanti, who retired very recently, responded to media queries about why the change had been made, and the specific effects it would have on food courts on the exterior of Costco buildings.

Certain Challenges

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“One of the challenges is that some of the food courts have gotten so busy, particularly if it’s near some office buildings or construction sites. We were getting member complaints,” Galanti explained.

Satisfying Customers, Gaining New Ones?

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It is expected to be a move that will both satisfy loyal customers and incentivize foodcourt fans to enroll in the membership program.

The Only Way Is to Pay

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While not everyone wants to spend between $60 to $120 a year on an annual Costco membership, by April it will be the only way to enjoy the chain store’s delicious foodcourt fare.

A Linchpin of the Brand

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The remarkably affordable food, particularly the foodcourts wildly popular $1.50 hot dog and soda combo, is considered to be an important linchpin of the Costco brand and a perk that executives and customers alike take seriously.

A Promise to Investors

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Despite rising inflation and cost of living, two years ago Galanti promised investors that the combo would not go up in price for the foreseeable future.

Hot Dog Combo Won’t Change

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“Hold the price on the hot dog and the soda a little longer – forever,” he told them.

Membership Fees Offset Expenses

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“Costco is able to keep our prices as low as possible because our membership fees help offset our operational expenses,” a spokesperson for the company previously said to explain the exclusivity of the membership plan back in 2023.

Keeping Buyers as Members

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The comment came at a time when the corporation was again cracking down on non-members, specifically people who were using membership cards that belonged to friends and family.

Photo–Verification Systems Introduced

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At that time, the retailer had instated a company-wide photo-verification system at all self-checkout kiosks to ensure that only Costco members could use their services.

“Membership Cards Are Not Transferable”

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“Our membership cards are not transferable, and since expanding our self-service checkout,” they added to the same statement. “We’ve noticed that non-member shoppers have been using membership cards that do not belong to them.”

Members Come First

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“We don’t feel it’s right that non-members receive the same benefits and pricing as our members,” it continued.

The Next But Not the Last

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It’s likely that the latest news of a stricter food court entry policy will be the next, but not the last, step in making the Costco membership plan a more rewarding and exclusive program for loyal customers.

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