February 23, 2024

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Costco announces return of product sampling

Costco announced plans to bring back product samples to roughly 170 of its locations beginning in early June. .

Costco announced plans to bring back product samples to roughly 170 of its locations beginning in early June. .

File photo

Costco says fan-favorite food samples are making a comeback after a 14-month hiatus as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

On an earnings call Thursday, the warehouse chain announced a phased return of free samples at its 550-plus U.S. stores starting early next month. Fans of the food court can also expect a few changes.

“As you all know, we eliminated our popular food sampling and demo activities in our warehouses last March at the onset of the pandemic,” Costco’s Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said on the call. “I’m happy to report that over the next couple of weeks we will be beginning a phased return to full sampling.”

In the first week of June, product samples will be rolled out at roughly 170 Costco stores with samples returning to most remaining locations closer to the end of June, according to Galanti.

Safety remains a top priority, and executives said safeguards including plexiglass barriers and prepping food in limited batches will remain in place. Samples will also be given to customers one at a time.

Costco’s famous food court is also making a comeback after the pandemic forced the warehouse to pare back a few of its menu offerings. Favorites including the sweet, crunchy churros are getting an upgrade and will be back by July 4, while the frozen yogurt will be replaced by premium soft-serve ice cream, Galanti said.

In the next few weeks, tables and seating will return to a handful of stores with outdoor food courts. Customers can expect seating to be back at most U.S. locations by June 7, though there will be more physical distancing and fewer seats at each table, according to Galanti.

“Again, these [changes] are still subject to doing this in waves and seeing how it goes,” he said, “and are subject to any additional state rules or restrictions.”

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Food sampling is a Costco Wholesale tradition. A shopper samples the Kielbasa smoked sausage at the opening of the new Bradenton warehouse. James A. Jones Jr. [email protected]

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Tanasia is a national Real-Time reporter based in Atlanta covering Georgia, Mississippi and the southeastern U.S. She’s an alumna of Kennesaw State University and joined McClatchy in 2020.