Costco’s Food Courts and Famous Free Samples Are Slowly Making a Return

Remember back when the novel coronavirus first started making headlines in the United States? It seems that the first type of panic was panic buying. In preparation for possible quarantine, some shoppers lined up at stores around the country filling their carts with toilet paper and cleaning supplies, but especially toilet paper.

The store that we remember hearing about the most was Costco. Sure, toilet paper, paper towels, and sanitizing wipes disappeared from other stores as well, but the pictures of carts overflowing with Costco-size packages of toilet paper will forever be burned into our memory.

Once lockdowns and safer at home orders started around the country, things changed. Shopping changed. We’re not just talking about social distancing, wearing masks and waiting in line outside a store in order to get inside. We’re talking about where people shop.

We’re Costco members, and we used to visit the store on a regular basis. We’d bring the kids, enjoy the samples and the bulk-size savings. We’d eat hot dogs and pizza for lunch. Not anymore. Now, like many other people, we’re limiting our shopping trips and getting food delivered when possible. 

Costco has felt the impact of changing consumer behavior. On May 28th, in a third-quarter earnings call, CFO Richard Galanti stated that in-person visits to the United States stores are down 2%.

Costco wants to win your business back, and they plan to do that by reintroducing some of the things we’ve been missing about the Costco experience. We’re talking about reopening the food courts and reintroducing samples. 

Some Costco locations already have reopened their food courts. The store started a limited rollout on April 30th, and the plan is to have all food courts reopened by mid-June. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to order your favorite food though. The menus will be limited due to COVID-19.

Samples are coming back too starting mid-June at a few locations before eventually being revived at all locations; however, the set-up won’t be exactly the way you remember. You won’t be picking up food off of trays with your fingers, but we don’t know more than that. Galanti stated, “I can’t say anymore.”

Hmm. Well, however, it looks, Costco is trying to get back to as close to normal as currently possible. Will the addition of open food courts and samples lure you back to the store? How do you think Costco will safely hand out samples?