Food court seating and churros are also returning as pandemic-related precautions loosen up.

By Jelisa Castrodale
May 28, 2021

It seems like every day, we get another sign that life is inching its way back to normal—and that this summer is going to be one thousand times better than the last one. Today, for example, we learned that Costco is bringing back its in-store samples, and that it plans to return seating options to its food courts.

USA Today reports that Richard Galanti, the warehouse store's chief financial officer and executive vice-president, spilled this exciting news during an earnings call with investors. (And the fact that we're this hyped about getting, like, half a Bagel Bite on a toothpick just emphasizes what a weird year-plus we've all been through.) According to Galanti, around 170 of Costco's 550-ish stores will start handing out snack-sized samples of its products during the first week of June, and the remaining locations will be giving them out by the end of the month.

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"I'm happy to report that over the next couple of weeks, we're beginning a phased return to full sampling. This will come in waves," he said. "The first wave will actually determine how fast we roll out and what and when restrictions are lifted. I'm sure there will be a few states with unique restrictions as well."

Going forward, each store will be implementing increased safety protocols to protect the employees who are serving at each Free Stuff station, and the sample-starved customers who can't wait to taste literally anything that's being given away. "All samples [will be] prepared behind plexiglass, prepared in smaller batches for better safety control, and distribute it to members one at a time," he explained.

Costco stopped offering free samples of its food items last March. Some stores kind of resumed the process last summer, but those samples were limited to "a few single serve items like cookies and crackers." No "cooked to prepare" freebies have been available since sampling was suspended last spring.

The chain is also returning its seating options to its food courts in June, although there will be about half as many seating options as there were pre-pandemic. The tables will still be spaced to ensure adequate social distancing between customers, and each table will seat a maximum of four people instead of the "six or eight" that could previously sit together.

"Last March, again, in 2020 as the pandemic took hold, we pared back the menu basically to hotdogs and pizza and soda and smoothies, and we eliminated all seating," Galanti added. "We began several weeks ago adding back tables and seating at a handful of outdoor food courts in a few states."

He also said that the food court menu will be expanded this summer, and the retailer will be introducing "new and improved churros" and workers will be scooping a new premium ice cream instead of frozen yogurt.

This is great news for everyone who's missed one of the best parts about having a Costco membership, but less great news for our credit card balances. It's impossible to resist any food that's served on a toothpick.