As more Americans get vaccinated and stores across the country loosen their COVID-19 restrictions ever so slightly, Costco has some exciting news for fans of the store's popular food courts.
In an interview with CNN Wednesday, Costco's Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti confirmed the store's food courts are indeed set to make a comeback and said he believes they will eventually return to normal operations.
"God willing. But it's going to take some time," he said.
As many Costco devotees will recall, the store shut down seating areas in its food courts at the beginning of the pandemic. In May, the store reopened its food courts, but began offering a very limited menu for takeout only. Over the summer, shoppers began spotting a few additional items, like the chicken bake had returned to the menu, as reported by Delish.
Costco has brought back ice cream, churros and smoothies to the food court menu and, according to CNN, customers can soon expect to see tables and chairs in stores with outdoor seating areas. As time goes on and COVID-19 safety protocols are relaxed, indoor food court seating will also return.
As for a timeline for the release of outdoor/indoor seating, that's still unknown. TODAY Food reached out to Costco for a comment and didn't hear back. However, the store's website still has the following message for shoppers listed on its COVID-19 updates page: "A limited menu is available at Costco Food Courts. Orders are only available for takeout & seating is not available. Please ask Costco Food Court employees for available condiments."
With change on the horizon, Galanti told CNN he's excited for customers to be able to once again enjoy Costco's popular food court offerings.
"The food courts work. They're one of the things we're known for," he said. "We're pleased that they're coming back."
The in-store dining areas have several fan-favorite items, like that ultra popular $1.50 hot dog that the company's co-founder Jim Sinegal appears to be quite fond of. In September 2020, a 2018 Mental Floss article reported that Sinegal threatened the company's current CEO, W. Craig Jelinek, when he suggested raising the price of the bargain hot dog-and-soda combo.
“I came to (Sinegal) once and I said, ‘Jim, we can’t sell this hot dog for a buck fifty," Jelineck said, according to 425 Business. "We are losing our rear ends.’ And he said, ‘If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.’ That’s all I really needed."
Hot dogs have always been a bestseller at Costco, and in 2018, the store experienced the wrath of many customers when it removed its popular Polish hot dog from the menu.
Food courts cannot claim all of Costco's appeal, though. The store's popular free samples have always been a major perk for members and those had to disappear for a while when the pandemic hit. In May 2020, the store announced that it would reintroducing samples to stores in mid-June, with a few new safety protocols in place.
In August, some shoppers spotted sample stands back in stores with plexiglass barriers. But they weren't actually able to sample any food, since they seemed to be display-only.
At the time, Costco management provided the following statement to TODAY via email: "Club Demonstration Services is in the process of returning to our warehouses around the world. This process will be managed with CDC and local health department guidance in each region where we do business. Based on these guidelines, product demonstrations may look different in different regions."