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Customers Divided As Costco Implements Strict Membership Policy for Food Court Access

While the rule was established in 2020, many reported that their local Costco stores still let people buy food from the food court without a membership.
UPDATED APR 16, 2024
Cover Image Source: Costco Food Court in Goleta, California | Photo by George Rose | Getty Images
Cover Image Source: Costco Food Court in Goleta, California | Photo by George Rose | Getty Images

In 2020, Costco implemented a policy requiring a membership card for food court purchases, including popular items such as barbecue beef brisket sandwiches, ice cream, churros, and more. This crackdown on access sparked discontent among customers, leading to a surge of online expressions of disapproval.

Despite the policy being established four years ago, reports emerged that some local Costco stores continued to allow non-members to buy food from the food court. Responding to this inconsistency, the warehouse chain recently enforced a strict membership requirement for food court access, effective as of last week.

Unsplash | Photo by Marcus Reubenstein
Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Marcus Rubenstein

One X user took to social media earlier this month to voice their frustration, stating, "Our @Costco switched to a membership-only food court now. Needless to say, our locals are p*ssed asf, it's hilarious to watch [though]."

Many individuals lamented the change, particularly regarding the beloved $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. One user, @loolfwend, remarked, "Just went to Costco and now you need a membership to buy at the food court. I think it’s time we burn down Costco." Similarly, another user shared, "I really didn’t want to pay for my own Costco membership, but if I’m ever denied access to the food court, I will cry, so here we are."


Having said that, not everybody seems to be disappointed with the wholesale giant's decision. @thomashawk posted, "Costco is tightening the loophole that used to let some non-members buy food at their outdoor food courts. This is smart on Costco’s part."

"Allowing members access to their $1.50 hot dog and some of the cheapest gasoline around are perks designed for those who pay their membership fee which is a big part of Costco’s profitability," he added.

"Costco's annual membership of $60 or $120 is worth every $$$," someone else posted.

Costco's food courts were renowned for their attractive combo deals on hot dogs and sodas, catering to a wide range of customers. However, the relaxed policy of serving non-members has now been restricted, with access exclusively reserved for Costco members.

"Effective April 8, 2024, an active Costco membership card will be required to purchase items from our food court," read a sign displayed prominently at Costco locations. Another sign outside one of the US-based stores, shared by a Reddit user, reiterated the requirement of a Costco membership for food court purchases, encouraging interested individuals to inquire at the membership counter for further details.

Additionally, Costco has been implementing measures to restrict non-members' access to its stores. Last year, the retailer began requesting shoppers to present their membership IDs, complete with their photos, when utilizing self-checkout lanes.

Getty | Mario Tara
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Mario Tara

According to Costco's annual report, released earlier this year, the company experienced significant growth, reporting an 8% increase in revenue, totaling $237.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023. Notably, $4.6 billion of this revenue was attributed to membership fees collected from approximately 128 million members.