Costco’s classic samples and food court seating will fully be back by the end of June

Costco sample
  • Costco’s food samples and food court are slowly returning to a pre-pandemic norm.
  • The company drastically altered both of these warehouse traditions, due to the pandemic.
  • By the first week of June, “full sampling” and food court seating will return to most warehouses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Chowing down on warehouse samples and food court fare is a critical piece of the Costco shopping experience. And according to the members-only warehouse giant’s Thursday earnings call, a more traditional sampling and food court experience may be back on the menu soon for members.

“I’m happy to report that over the coming weeks we’ll begin a phased return to full sampling,” Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said.

By the first week of June, Costco plans to introduce “full sampling” back into 170 out of 550 US warehouses. For the time being, the retailer plans to retain its plexiglass barriers at the sample station.

“The first wave will actually determine how fast we roll out and what, and when restrictions are lifted,” Galanti said.

The big box retailer yanked its trademark sampling in March 2020, and then introduced samples behind plexiglass in June of last year. Galanti told analysts that starting in June 2020, the retail introduced samples for “a few single serve items like cookies and crackers,” but continued its ban on “cook-to-prepare sample items.” The new sample stations also included plexiglass coverings and a gloved, masked employee on hand to distribute the food.

The food court will also revert back to most of its pre-pandemic operations. Galanti said that when the pandemic “took hold” in March 2020, Costco eliminated all food court seating and pared back its menu to pizza, hot dogs, soda, and smoothies.

Several weeks ago, however, the company experimented with adding tables and extra seating to outdoor food courts in a number of states.

“By June 7, we plan to have tables and seating back at most locations,” Galanti said.

The tables will seat four, instead of the traditional six or eight, and the food courts will still only have half of their seating capacity. The newly reinvigorated food courts will also include two new options for many warehouses by July 4: “high-end” ice cream to replace the frozen yogurt and a “new and improved churro.”