One of the earliest food-service trials consisted
of a single hot dog cart in front of a San Diego warehouse in 1984. That cart was provided to the company by hot dog supplier Hebrew National.
It wasn’t difficult to locate the first operator for
an interview, because he’s still a Costco employee. Jay
de Geus is now a regional food-service supervisor,
and has vivid memories about that early assignment.
“I had previously worked in catering to the airline industry, but left that to learn about being a
merchant. After three months with the company, I
got the call telling me that, since I was the only
employee with food-service experience, they wanted
me to run a hot dog cart,” says Jay.
Studying the cart vendors at Balboa Park, home
of the San Diego Zoo, gave Jay some ideas. “That
first cart didn’t even have a cash register, but I saw
the park vendors used coin changers,” he recalls.
Costco and Price Club had parallel hot dog cart
services until the late ’80s, when Costco introduced its
Cafe 150, where most menu selections cost $1.50.
Around that same time, Price Club rolled out its pizza
kitchen concept—the format that became the model
for all Costco Food Courts after the two companies
merged in 1993, and which is still followed today.
wrap, chicken bake and Caesar salad all offer big
value. Loaded with fresh ingredients and priced less
than $4, they outshine national fast-food offerings
and gourmet burger excesses.
Internationally, Costco Food Courts look the
same and have the same top-selling hot dogs and
pizza, but with a few different items spicing up the
menu. In Canada, it’s poutine (French fries with
gravy and cheese curds). The United Kingdom
“We continue to hold
prices, give fantastic
value and exceed
member expectations ...”
Along the way items have been added to the
Food Court menu, but it’s a very controlled business
model aimed at streamlined service. It’s much like
the warehouse: the most popular and the best-qual-ity items instead of a wide range of choices.
In addition to hot dogs and pizza, the turkey
serves jacket potatoes—baked potatoes with special
fillings—and cottage pies, Japan dishes up clam
chowder and both Korea and Taiwan offer a variation of the chicken bake called a bulgogi bake—
made with marinated grilled beef. A seafood-topped
pizza is also a very popular item in Mexico and the
Always looking for new efficiencies and ways to
improve quality, the Food Court implements many
changes behind the scenes.