13 Changes Costco Made to its Food Court in 2021
In a year filled with highs and lows, Costco's food court has seen it all. From the disappearance of the beloved combo pizza to the return of the churros, even the most seasoned Costco members have noticed that the food court looks much different than it did a year ago because the warehouse chain gave us plenty of shifts, twists, and turns that had everyone talking. While each season lends itself to something different, it's hard not to recognize the changes made both on and off the menu.
As the year winds down, we're shedding light on how the food court has changed throughout the year. The number of changes to the Costco food court may seem endless, so we've rounded up 13 of the biggest changes made to the warehouse chain's beloved food court.
Costco added a chicken sandwich to the menu.
Chicken sandwich wars reached new heights when Costco added its chicken sandwich to the menu. With the chicken sandwich craze sweeping the nation, it wasn't long before Costco's new crispy chicken sandwich was born. Unfortunately, the addition isn't found in the U.S., but the Instagram account, @costcodeals found that Costco members in Vancouver, BC Canada can get the menu item for $4.89, which comes with crispy breaded chicken and spicy mayo on a soft cheese bun at 810 calories.
Touchless soda dispensers made their debut at the food court.
The sensor-operated soda dispenser made its debut earlier this year and was met with mixed reviews. While the concept of putting your cup underneath seems simple enough, some Reddit users say that some machines dispense overly carbonated soda that dispenses far more foam than soda.
But the biggest complaints came from the soda selections themselves. Depending on where you go, the drink options can vary. One Reddit user wishes that the store offered slightly healthier options.
"I always feel like it is such a waste getting just water with a hot dog, but the sugar is WAY to many calories…Something like un-sweetened Iced Tea or just flavored water no sweetner would be a god send," said u/Anomaly1134.
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Costco brought back outdoor seating…
Gone are the days of taking your food court orders to-go! The red and white benches are back after Costco removed seating areas from food courts at the start of the pandemic. As part of their safety measures, the warehouse chain reduced the menu to hot dogs and pizza for takeout only—which meant no seating. But fret not, because members can once again enjoy their meals outdoors.
…and indoor seating.
Costco took additional precautions when it also limited its indoor seating capacity, and in some cases, removed the tables entirely. But back in April, there were heavy talks about reinstalling the tables for public consumption.
Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti predicted the food courts would make a full return at the time, according to a CNN report. "God willing. But it's going to take some time," he said. Keeping with health guidelines, the warehouse chain would enforce physical distancing at a reduced capacity.
Related: The Worst Costco Shortages of 2021
Costco brought back churros.
The Twisted churros are back and bigger than ever. Back in March, Costco brought back the menu item, but with a twist. But with the increase in size comes an increase in price. Instead of the usual $1, members can expect to pay $1.49 for the bigger portion, which means more cinnamon and more sugar for this sweet treat.
But does bigger always mean better? Some shoppers on Facebook commented that the previous version of the churros was better and even petitioned Costco to bring back the original recipe.
The combo pizza did not make a return.
Arguably the most popular item on the menu, the combination pizza's disappearance made headlines and dominated online forums…so much so that pizza lovers forged an online petition requesting the return of the menu item with it garnering well over 8,000 online signatures. The petition even stated that "Countless Costco members and membership families have sworn to not renew their membership with Costco due to this travesty."
A recent Reddit poll confirmed that desire is still at an all-time high when it comes to the pizza, with the vast majority of users wanting the item brought back.
While this isn't necessarily a change, with other items making their return after being taken off the menu to help with streamlining orders, it is surprising given how much love the combo pizza gets online.
A new ice cream was introduced.
We all screamed for Costco ice cream…until it was sadly removed from the menu. For the longest time, the warehouse chain served froyo, but in May USA Today reported that Galanti wants to expand the food court menu with "high-end soft ice cream to replace their frozen yogurt." The ice cream can be served in either a cup for $1.99 or in a sundae with a chocolate topping syrup for $2.49.
This year it was reported that the beloved smoothie is making a comeback to the food court. At 220 calories per serving, it's even considered one of the healthier food court options when compared to other menu items.
"I have to say this fruit smoothie from the food court is pretty good," said Reddit user u/therealdeb in early 2021 after getting one of these fruity concoctions.
But not everyone was a fan of the flavor. Some users from the same Reddit thread claimed that the drink used to appear "more pink", and that Costco changed its smoothie recipe.
Another Reddit user/Costco member noted that the food court used to carry the mixed berry flavor, but this is something different. "grew up drinking the berry smoothie so my heart broke just a little when they rolled out the new version," they said.
Costco brought back the onion crank to its food courts.
After much pushback from members, Costco listened to the voices of the people and delivered. Easily considered a fan favorite of the food court menu, it wasn't long before members noticed the onion crank's disappearance. The long-awaited food court condiment made its triumphant comeback this summer, but the return is bittersweet.
While some locations carry the machine, others have yet to follow the trend, leaving some shoppers curious about its reappearance. The answer remains unclear when each store will see the food court staple, but the emergence of the onion crank in some stores is worth keeping hope alive.
Costco added touchless condiment stations.
If there's one thing that can make the iconic $1.50 hotdog any better, it's topping it with some of your favorite condiments. Alongside the onion crank, the condiment station also faced some modifications this year when the warehouse chain installed touchless condiment dispensers. Following the same idea of the touchless soda dispensers, the condiment stations are activated by sensors. While the idea sounds great in theory, Mashable reported that some customers complained about the mess from the machines dispensing improperly.
You might need to be a member to eat there.
Shoppers have noticed kiosks popping at the food courts that require them to scan their membership cards before ordering from the menu. There have been talks about required membership for years, but it seems like this is the year that the requirement has been enforced more heavily.
Redditor u/johnthrives posted proof of this measure, with a screen prompting customers to scan membership to continue.
"They're working to make it required everywhere…" noted one Reddit user.
Although this rule may not be implemented at every food court, it could be only a matter of time before you see a kiosk at your nearest store.
The chocolate-dipped ice cream disappeared.
Members had to say goodbye to this sweet treat after the food court removed it from the menu. The ice cream bar was dipped in rich chocolate and topped with toasted almonds made a lot of uproar once fans of the dessert noticed its disappearance. There's even a Facebook page dedicated to bringing the item back. Costco's had a history of reintroducing items to the menu, so it's worth keeping hope alive.
Costco stopped taking food court orders over the phone.
Over the years, some customers have opted to call ahead in order to place their food orders, but it looks like those days are over. Unlike simply calling the nearest Costco store food court, some Redditors have noted that they have to visit the store in person in order to have their orders filled.
"I have observed that in such places, they primarily serve the customer who is already present as the exchange is already guaranteed," said user u/tetsaga when explaining the potential reasoning behind the change.
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