The Costco Change That Went Somewhat Unnoticed During The Pandemic

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Costco Food Court Requires Membership Now, At Least In Theory

The pandemic has changed so much. Places still remained shuttered, maybe never to reopen.  One place that has been chugging along the entire time is Costco though.  People have been flocking to their stores to stock up on…toilet paper, among other things. Costco made one change at the beginning of the pandemic that went a little under the radar.  To be honest, I didn’t even know it was a thing before they announced the change. I guess it was a major plus for many people though. The change was that the Costco food court requires membership now in order to dine.

Taking Advantage of the Costco Food Court

Mmmmm, Costco hot dogs! I mean who doesn’t love Costco hot dogs?  They are huge, full of flavor and like $2 with a drink. I love taking the kids there after school and having a quick bite for under $10. It is a filling meal without hitting the checkbook too hard. The deal was even better if you didn’t have to pay the $60 membership fee to have access to it.(I will say that I think the membership is worth it for most people)

I have already shared how to shop at Costco without a membership and how to get some of the cheapest gas around without one too.  But this was a little perk that I was not aware of.  I guess the Costco food court was treated more like a restaurant that everyone had access to.

Costco Food Court Requires Membership

Costco Food Court Requires Membership, Well Kind Of

Some Costco locations started posting signs around the food court that you now had to pay to play when it came to hot eats. The reality is that it doesn’t seem to be overly enforced.  You are more likely to get stopped at the door without a card then you are to get carded at the food court.

Maybe that is where the line of defense is now.  I suppose you used to be able to get past the front door if you said you were heading to the food court. I have never personally been asked for membership while ordering food at the food court.  Many locations now have ordering kiosks which do not require your card to be scanned or anything to place an order.

Some states require Costco to allow people to purchase alcohol in the stores.  If you were already there to make a purchase of alcohol then I bet you would be able to grab some eats on the way out without a membership.

Final Thoughts

For most people this change will not be a big deal but for the people that used the food court without a membership, it is a big blow.  It was a quick and cheap meal at one of the many Costco locations. Many of us drive by one or two a day.

My membership ran out a few weeks ago but I normally wait for a net zero cost offer to sign up.  If you want to gain access to those delicious hot dogs again that may be the way to go.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. They’ve been stopping people from entering through the exit door for probably two years now. They use a side door for membership issues/returns. Because the food court is inside, they’ve effectively eliminated freeloaders trying to sneak in for a cheap meal. I’d have to imagine a lot of it is a loss leader, with their hot dog combo leading the way at $1.50.

      • Heh, they are what, a quarter pound?!? My 3 year old tosses the bread and chows down on it. I get the pizza and we split her lemonade. Not a bad way to spend $3.50 for a quick meal when on the go. Although admittedly we haven’t gone together in the Covid era. It’s funny the things you miss sometimes.

  2. My Costco food court doesn’t sell all-in-one pizza anymore, which was my favorite, now only pepp and cheese, boring..

  3. Hasn’t changed at our location yet. We have touchscreens which allow us to checkout and pay without standing in line, so there’s definitely no popup for membership. The new requirement seems to be a gradual rollout. Not that I’d ever be without a membership! Costco has been a haven for sanity during the pandemic.

  4. In, Hawaii the food court used to be outside. Then years ago, Costco took them inside. Now, I believe all locations have them outside the warehouses again. There is no carding involved.

    • Try it at my local Costco and you’ll get stopped. They don’t play games here. It’s a busy Costco and packed food court as it is, so I don’t mind having to go through the front entrance to get to the food court if it means only members being served.

    • Coming in the exit at our local Costcos is a no go, for sure. Even if you have a return, you come through the entrance.

  5. They’ve been scanning the membership barcode prior to ringing up a purchase, similar to when one purchases product at the Costco register. However, the gift card barcode is valid. Technically, you would need a guest pass in order to purchase product at the Costco register.

  6. Can always show a Costco gift card at the door to get in and then eat at the food court. I doubt even in the unlikely chance that they carded you at the court that they would deny service for a hypothetical shopper using their gift card (which is allowed).


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