Do You Need a Costco Membership to Eat at the Food Court? Here’s What We Know

Do You Need a Costco Membership to Eat at the Food Court? Here’s What We Know Costco’s food court is undoubtedly one of the most famous and beloved offerings of all time at the warehouse club mega-chain. Odes to the ever-affordable $1.99 pizza slices are plentiful in the online Costco community, and shoppers gobbled up nearly 200 million hot dog and soda combos in 2023 alone. So it’s not at all surprising that when one Costco location recently made a significant food court policy change, it became major news among the retailer’s hordes of fans. In early March, a member took to Reddit to share a photo of a sign they’d spotted at their local Costco in Orlando, Fla. It read: “Effective April 8, 2024, an active Costco membership card will be required to purchase items from our food court. You can join today. Please see our membership counter for details.” The change received plenty of media coverage and garnered a wide range of reactions from consumers, with some applauding the move and others criticizing it. However, the decision also sparked plenty of confusion about Costco’s food court policy for non-members. Some Costco members have said that their local warehouses still don’t check membership cards despite the new requirement at the Orlando location. Others claim that the warehouses they frequent have always checked memberships at the food court for as long as they’ve shopped there. So what, exactly, are Costco’s rules regarding whether non-members are permitted at food courts? We recently did some digging to find answers to those questions. Here’s everything we know: Though Costco lists many of its member policies online, Eat This, Not That! could not locate a definitive rule on the retailer’s website regarding who is allowed to eat at its food courts. Costco also did not respond to our requests for clarification on its food court policy by publication time. Luckily, we had more success in extracting information from specific Costco locations. Eat This, Not That! contacted three Costco warehouses in different parts of the United States to ask them directly about their non-member food court policies. Employees at two of those stores—located in Edison, N.J., and the Chicago suburb of Mount Prospect—confirmed to us that non-members are allowed to dine at their food courts. I’ve visited the Edison location myself several times in the past year and can personally verify that I’ve never been required to scan my membership card at the food court ordering kiosk. However, the third Costco we contacted in Sacramento, Calif., said that they only serve card-carrying Costco members. Why the difference in policy between the three? One of the workers we spoke to said that only outdoor food courts are currently moving to restrict non-members. That checks out considering that the Sacramento food court banning non-members is outdoors, while the Edison and Chicago locations have indoor food courts. Former Costco CFO Richard Galanti, who recently left his post, also told Axios in an early March interview that clubs with outside food courts would start requiring membership cards to make purchases come April 8. Galanti said the change was because the outdoor food courts—which are more easily accessible to non-members—tended to draw overly large crowds. “One of the challenges is that some of the food courts have gotten so busy, particularly if it’s near some office buildings or construction sites,” Galanti told Axios. “We were getting member complaints.” That’s not necessarily to say that it’s only the outdoor Costco food courts that don’t permit non-members. If the recent policy change at the Orlando Costco and all the subsequent confusion have shown us anything, it’s that the company’s rules on non-members at food courts can vary drastically by location. It’s entirely possible that some indoor food courts also bar non-members from making purchases, so any non-member craving some food court fare should absolutely check with their local Costco to confirm they’ll be allowed to dine there before heading over. However, the fact that outdoor locations specifically are being targeted in this recent crackdown indicates that non-members may have a better chance scoring a bite at indoor food courts moving forward. That’s assuming, of course, that those same shoppers are able to get past the front door. Costco has been stepping up its membership checks at warehouse entrances as well—even deploying a new card scanner in one location.

This content was originally published here.

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