Food samples are being brought back by Costco, which was a pre-pandemic mainstay. After a 14-month sabbatical, the warehousing network said it would make a phased return to complete sampling early next month. On Thursday’s earnings call, Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti stated that roughly 170 US locations would bring back food samples in the first week of June, with “most of the remaining locations” returning near the end of June.
Because of COVID-19, there will be certain modifications in the way food is distributed. Galanti said they’ve instituted “enhanced safety processes,” such as preparing samples behind plexiglass, making smaller batches, and distributing them one at a time to customers. “Tables will four seats instead of six or eight and half the seating capacity as we had before,” Galanti said.
During the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, Costco stopped sampling food. There will be various improvements to the food court, including seating. Outdoor food courts will be available in some stores, while interior seating will be available with more physical separation at most of its 560 US sites starting next month.
Other upgrades to the food court include fresh and improved churros to the menus, which will be ready by July 4. This summer, new ice cream is taking the place of frozen yogurt. Galanti said that its food court business hasn’t fully recovered from its low point in 2019 and will likely take many months longer. In recent months, Costco has begun reopening and expanding its so-called secret weapon.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Costco locked down the food court’s dining spaces and reduced the menu to hot dogs and pizza for takeout only. Food court sales aren’t broken out separately by the corporation, but they’re one of the attractions that encourage shoppers to pay $60 or $120 for a Costco membership every year.